50 Really Good Shoegaze Albums That Weren’t Included in Pitchfork’s List of 50 Best Shoegaze Albums
Nothing has really changed from the eight-year-old me that sat with her ear plastered to radio speakers on a Sunday morning, being pissed off that the Goo Goo Dolls got the number one spot again on Casey Kasem’s countdown of the week’s top forty songs. I’m still that kid that is pissed off but instead of the Goo Goo Dolls, it’s My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless as the number one album on another shoegaze list.
I could best be described as a shy person with reserved vocals and this is probably why I like shoegaze music, which is shy and reserved vocals hidden inside a wall of sparkly, jangly guitars. It is a very specific dreamy sound of melodic noise, quiet and loud at the same time, composed of idiosyncratic patterns. It’s a distinct style of indie rock that is nearly flawed in its sameness, but somehow the bands that do it best are able to stand out. A common attitude of the musicians and the listeners are to generally leave things unlabeled, there is a lot of artistic value in being undefinable, but because not much can sell without categorization, bands of this type are forced into a close-enough catch all label.
As much as I love this music, and even identify with it, there are definitely some questionable characteristics about the scene. Much like most music scenes, how sincere is the female representation? Almost every one of the bands had/has at least one female member, and usually she provides a very specific vocal style. How often was this single female member just an instrument for a certain sound, or a certain image? Essentially, shoegaze is just another subgenre of over-indulgent white boy music enjoyed by over-indulged white boy (usually) musicians.
At first when I read the introduction to Pitchfork’s recently published listicle, 50 Best Shoegaze Albums, I thought maybe for a second that I wrote it, since there is what seems to be a reluctance to include My Bloody Valentine and a higher mention of Slowdive and Blonde Redhead. But, I know I didn’t write it because Blonde Redhead — a band that gives me goosebumps every time I see them perform and changed the course of my music listening when teenage me was handed an album recommendation from a Lou’s Records employee (who were you so I can thank you) — is not a band that is shoegaze, and their album 23 is not a shoegaze album, but one that has elements of the style and a marketing department somewhere labeled it as “nu gaze.” I have been quoted saying “this is not shoegaze” about a lot of other things as well, more than can be considered normal. And as for Pitchfork’s apparent reluctance to include My Bloody Valentine, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t just a self-referential afterthought because they went ahead and appointed Loveless as the number one album and two more MBV albums elsewhere on the list.
At best the list is a starter kit. And at worst, it’s simply a google search results, scraping only the surface. There is hardly even mention of the deep cuts from the original period of the “scene that celebrated itself” or the Japanese shoegaze movement that thrived in the late nineties (Asobi Seksu is technically an American band with a Japanese singer). It touches on not the best shoegaze albums, some of them are inarguably the best, yes, but really the list is made up of the most popular albums, and even several albums by bands that had maybe one shoegaze style song. And yes, I know that content published online in 2016 is mostly for search optimization and less about critical analysis, but I’ve been losing sleep and spending too much of my energy thinking about this poorly constructed list of a music style I adore. So I, the general public, have decided to compose an additional list of fifty really good shoegaze albums that Pitchfork did not include on their list, so I can sleep at night.