Tag Archives: shoegaze

December 5, 2017 — “Falling Stars” by Blankenberge


If you only listen to one song today, make it “Falling Stars” by Blankenberge (2017, from the album Radiogaze).
Blankenberge is a shoegaze/dream pop quintet from Saint Petersburg, Russia. I wrote about them once last year when they were featured on a compilation of The Cure cover songs, but I still know very little about them. It’s true that the band is named after the Belgian coastal resort town, but that’s everything that I know about them. They released a self-titled EP last spring and the cover of “Pictures of You” last summer. They released their debut album Radiogaze back in June of this year, and it looks like it’s making some year-end lists. At least it’s making year-end lists that are devoted specifically to shoegaze and dream pop. I haven’t spent very much time with the album, but I love what I’ve heard. Especially today’s song.
“Falling Stars” by Blankenberge

I like that there’s no messing around; no quiet intro or anything like that. It’s just beautiful, fuzzy noise from the drop. 48 seconds in, when the vocals come in, it gets much quieter. After that, the heavy fuzz comes back and pretty much drives the car for the majority of the ride. From 3:15 to 4:00, the bass guitar gets its own moment, and then the glorious fuzz takes over. The coda goes on for quite some time, which is in sharp contrast to the lack of any real intro. The whole time, Yana Guselnikova’s angelic vocals soar somewhere in the ether, way above everything else. When she hits the high highs, Her vocals remind me a bit of the first singer out of Hooverphonic. The music, though, reminds me much more of the Just For a Day-era Slowdive. To be fair, though, this is a bit fuzzier and a bit muddier than that.
Radiogaze was released by Elusive Sound Records in June. You can download it in the Bandcamp store for only $5 USD here. Better yet, you can download the entire Blankenberge catalog for only $4.80 USD.

December 1, 2017 — “Ojos en el Carro” by Mint Field

Mint Field

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Ojos en el Carro” by Mint Field (from the forthcoming 2018 album Pasar de las Luces).
Mint Field is a dream pop/shoegaze duo from Tijuana, Mexico. The 21-year olds Estrella Sanchez (vocals/guitar) and Amor Amezcua (drums/synths) released an EP called Primeras Salidas in 2015, and played Coachella and South By Southwest. They went to Detroit to record with Chris Koltay out of Akron/Family, and their debut album Pasar de las Luces will be out on February 23, 2018 via Innovative Leisure.
I don’t really know anything about the band, but I got something in the mailbag, and I’ve read that their sound falls in line with krautrock, shoegaze, dream pop, and stoner rock. Naturally, that piqued my interest. Today’s song reminds me of bands like Beach House and Memoryhouse. I haven’t heard the rest of the album yet, but I really like this song.
“Ojos en el Carro” by Mint Field

I love the glacial pace of it and the dreamy guitars. The drums are really gentle and Sanchez’ angelic vocals are affected with heavy delay. The highlight for me, though, is the sonic sea change at 3:31. It goes from glacial and gauzy to not-so-glacial and loud. By the end, it’s really fuzzy and gritty. I love all of these things, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the record. It doesn’t really matter to me that Sanchez sings in Spanish, and that I don’t understand a word of it.

You can pre-order Pasar de las Luces here.

You should also enjoy the official video here:

November 30, 2017 — “This is Permanent” by Airiel

Airiel — Molten Young Lovers

If you only listen to one song today, make it “This is Permanent” by Airiel (2017, from the album Molten Young Lovers).

Airiel is a shoegaze/dream pop quartet from Chicago. It started out in 1997 as a two-man project when Jeremy Wrenn (vocals/guitars) and some other guy formed the band in Bloomington Indiana. Over the course of 20 years, the lineup has changed a bunch. All of the founding members of the terrific Chicago shoegaze band Lightfoils were either official members of Airiel, or they made guest appearances on their recordings. Through all of the lineup changes, the only consistent member is frontman Jeremy Wrenn. These days, he’s joined by Andrew Marrah out of the band New Canyons (guitars/synths), Matt Blanton (bass), Nick Bertling out of the Baltimore band Alto Verde (drums). Spencer Kiss was in the band and may still be, but it’s certainly Bertling playing drums in the video for today’s song.

In 2003 and 2004, the band released a series of four critically acclaimed EPs called Winks and Kisses which were later re-released as a boxed set. They released their debut album The Battle of Sealand in the summer of 2007. Five years later, Shelflife Records put out the Kid Games EP. Five more years later, they released the long-awaited sophomore long player.

I still think that the band, and especially Wrenn’s vocals, sound like they’re from the East or Southeast regions of England in the mid 1990s instead of present-day Chicago. I’m thinking Ride and The Catherine Wheel. Lots of delay and flange and fuzz on the guitars. Those guitars have a very bright, chiming quality, but there’s still something that weighs it all down. It’s like breathing fresh air underwater.

The new album came out on October 13, and I’ve had it in my catalog since then, but I didn’t get to spend any real time with it until this week. It was everything I hoped for from a new Airiel record, and actually quite a bit more. I don’t think there’s a bad song or any “filler” on the album, and it certainly made the long wait worthwhile.

This is the album-opening song:
“This is Permanent” by Airiel

In the 30-second intro, the synthetic drums are all over the stereo field, and I love that. That aspect of it reminds me of the drums at the very end of the extended 7″ version of Thomas Dolby’s smash hit “She Blinded Me With Science”. I still remember how much that song, and that trick in the stereo field blew me away as a small boy.

After that intro, the noise kicks in, and it gets even better. Wrenn has told people that his band is “loud… pretty… You can dance to it”. I’m not sure about the dancing part, but it’s certainly loud and pretty.

The aforementioned video is no frills. Pretty much a performance video shot in black & white with a couple of different cameras and lenses. Still though, it’s cool to see the pedal boards they use.

You can buy the album as a digital download or as a 2XLP via Bandcamp here.

November 7, 2017 — “Honey Knows” by Sound and Fury

Sound and Fury

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Honey Knows” by Sound and Fury (2017, from the forthcoming album Sprout).
Sound and Fury is a shoegaze quartet from Chengdu, China.  Inspired by UK shoegaze of the early 1990s, the band formed in 2011.  In 2016, they released an EP called Some of the Songs, and it was met with glowing reviews. Finally, six years after their formation, and after a few lineup changes, they are set to release their debut album Sprout later this month.

I’ve seen a lot of people posting about this band on shoegaze message boards and Facebook groups, and I was thrilled when they exceeded my expectations. While there’s a ton of glorious noise, there’s also lots of melody and lovely coed vocals. I’m reminded a lot of Isn’t Anything. If the rest of the album moves me the same way this song does, it’ll be quite high on my year-end list.

“Honey Knows” by Sound and Fury

I love everything about this. The noise, the melodies, the harmonies, and the neat tidy package. It clocks in at just 2:19, but it feels like a much bigger song than that. There’s a little break from 0:37 to 0:50 that reminds me a little of a similar break in the Pavement song “Baptist Blacktick”. It goes back to the lovely noise and all that, and then there’s a full stop at 2:16. No fade-out. No decrescendo. Just a full-stop. I’ve always loved that kind of thing, and it works perfectly here.

I also recommend the video. It’s pretty standard shoegaze music video stuff, with a mixture of live performance, studio stuff, and the band goofing around. On my third viewing, I spotted something pretty awesome that I feel obligated to point out. At 1:50, you can see a vinyl copy of Heaven up Here proudly displayed. It’s not my favourite record by the Bunnymen, but the album-opening “Show of Strength” is absolutely my favourite song by the Bunnymen. Then at 1:57, they’re having fun with a vinyl copy of Deerhunter’s Microcastle. Then at 2:02, we see a CD copy of the magnificent debut record by Alvvays. This isn’t about Echo and the Bunnymen, though. I’ve written about them a number of times. Nor is it about Alvvays, who is another favourite around here. To tell a secret, I’ve never been a fan of Deerhunter, but it’s still cool to see that album cover. None of that is the point, though. To get back on topic, you should watch the video, and keep your eyes peeled for those albums, starting at the 1:50 mark:

Sprout will be released on November 24 via Boring Production. I have no idea if there will be distribution of physical copies in the US, but I’m sure it’ll be available as a digital download. For now, you can download the song from Bandcamp by naming your price here. You can also grab their 2016 by paying at least $1 USD here.

September 21, 2017 — “That’s Not All” by Pia Fraus

Pia Fraus

If you only listen to one song today, make it “That’s Not All” by Pia Fraus (2017, from the forthcoming album Field Ceremony).
Pia Fraus is a shoegaze/dream-pop/indie pop quintet from Tallinn, Estonia. Between 2001 and 2008, they released four proper albums. In a previous feature back in 2012, I wrote

I guess you could say that they’re three parts The Swirlies, one part Yo La Tengo, but with the volume low, the windows open, and the light shining in.

I stand by that assessment.

The band took a long hiatus and shuffled the deck just a little bit. After nine years, they’re ready to release their fifth album —Field Ceremony— on October 16. Actually, it’ll be out on October 13 via Shelflife Records in the United States and October 16 in Europe (SekSound Records) and in Japan (Vinyl-Junkie Recordings). They’ve been releasing singles ahead of the album, but those somehow slipped between the cracks until I got something in the mail bag a couple of weeks ago. I was, of course, pleasantly surprised and excited to read about the new album, and I was totally satisfied when I listened to the promo copy.

The melty, gooey guitar with the tons of effects, their magnificent pop sensibilities and the glorious coed vocals reminded us of why we fell in love with Pia Fraus in the first place: they remind us of a lot of familiar and comfortable things while bringing a lot of their own things to the table.

It’s fair to mention that I was also unaware of this development, but Pia Fraus recently recorded a split 7″ single with Rocketship. Check that out here. Rocketship, incidentally, has new record coming out after an 11-year hiatus. You should check out the new song here.

Back on topic, though, the new tune from Pia Fraus is great, and this is that song:
“That’s Not All” by Pia Fraus

I love that they waste no time getting to the melty, gooey guitar awesomeness. No stick clicks or snare hits to count them in, no jangly acoustic intro. Just the warm, gooey stuff right from the drop. My only complaint (and this is a very minor one) is that I wish they were much louder. The noise that they do bring is glorious, but I wish they would turn their amps to elevens.

There’s also a video, which was directed by the band’s former drummer Joosep Volk:

June 11, 2017 — “New Colors” by Panda Riot

Panda Riot

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “New Colors” by Panda Riot (2017, from the album Infinity Maps).

Panda Riot is a shoegaze/dream pop/noise rock quartet from Chicago. They formed in 2007 in Philadelphia and put out a record as a duo. Years later, they ended up in Chicago with a full lineup. I first learned about them when the band submitted their 2013 album Northern Automatic Music to my mailbag. I immediately fell in love with that album and I eventually named it my #13 album of that year.

I also, almost exactly a year ago, featured the song “Helios (June 20)” while they were working hard on the new album. That new album finally came out on Friday, and it met every high expectation that I had for it. I had the chance to listen to it in its entirety while driving out-of-town on Friday, and I knew that I recognized “Helios”. I thought I had just heard it as an album preview, and I planned and promised to feature it in this post. However, I just discovered that the reason I recognized it was that I had already written about it.

There are a lot of bits in this record and in tonight’s song that remind me of My Bloody Valentine. Specifically, I’m reminded of the latest MBV record m b v. There’s a lot of similar guitar effects and production qualities. There’s a parallel vibe, and the same beautiful noise. And, of course, it has to be said that Rebecca Scott sometimes sounds quite a bit like Bilinda Butcher. While this band definitely wears the MBV influence on their sleeve, they’re not a Valentines rip-off band. They’re definitely doing their own thing.

Here’s tonight’s song:
“New Colors” by Panda Riot

The first 35 seconds are quiet. Dreamy and pretty. When the shoe drops, it’s not an overwhelming tsunami of sound. Rather, it’s a really pleasant wave of noise. While I’ve been known to appreciate deafening “noise for the sake of noise”, this works better here. I like that there’s tons of noise, but you can still hear the difference between the guitar, the other guitar, and the bass. Too often with noise, it sort of all melts together into a big chunk. Like a bag of gummy bears left in the car on a hot summer day.

I also really like that the song ends with an even longer bit of quieter beauty.

You can download the album from Bandcamp
. Or Amazon, or whatever place you legally buy and download music. They’ve announced a small tour of seven shows in six cities. It’s like they took the NHL Original Six and replaced Toronto and Montréal with Philadelphia and Milwaukee. No shows down here have been announced yet. I’m still holding out hope.

April 11, 2017 — “Blurred” by Voices from Deep Below

Voices from Deep Below

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Blurred” by Voices from Deep Below (2017, from the album I Want to Stand Where the Sun Himself Shakes with Fear).

Voices From Deep below is a shoegaze/dreampop/post-rock recording project of Dale Humphries. He’s a Londoner who relocated to NYC several years ago and has been recording as Voices from Deep Below since. I wrote about this project once before a couple of years ago here, and since He’s just released the fifth album, here we are again.

On the other records, Humphries did most, if not all, of the work. On this one, there’s a full band credited, but I think we still talk about Humphries and the band interchangeably.

Although I haven’t been writing much lately, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth and I am trying to pay attention to the mailbag. This one came from the mailbag, which is bulging with unread messages and audio files. I’ll get to that some day.

From what I’ve heard, the previous stuff has some ambient edges and I was reminded just a bit of lovesliescrushing and things of that ilk. On this new one, there’s much more noise. Less pillows. More bricks. Also, the other records have songs of “standard” running times. Most are in the five-minute neighbourhood. The new record has just five songs, and they’re all “long”. Today’s song clocks in at 8:48, and it’s the shortest of the lot.

There’s plenty of the aforementioned “noise” and “bricks”, but there’s also some intermittent softness and serenity. It’s not completely devoid of pillows. Although I’m listening on headphones, I’m sure this is fantastic when played loudly through real speakers.

“Blurred” by Voices from Deep Below

I like the vocals, which are provided by Gioia Lea Gerber, and I like some of the Slowdive-esque guitar bits, but I really like the bits that get really loud. All the different layers upon layers of fuzz and heavily affected guitars at 7:01. That’s my favourite part.

As is the case with the other Voices from Deep Below releases, you can download I Want to Stand Where the Sun Himself Shakes with Fear completely free of charge via Bandcamp here.

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