10 bands who are reimagining everything you know about shoegaze
How come everybody’s talking about shoegaze again? Well, there’s hardly any other genre that embodies the spirit of and the need for escapism and distraction so perfectly. A new kind of reality demands new kinds of shoegaze. And it’s not quite the shoegaze as we know it. These bands and artists are changing what shoegaze sounds like, but not the purpose and effect of it.
Find your new band to escape with below.
Emo and shoegaze have a lot in common, though blending twinkly guitar picking, emotional vocals and layered guitar landscapes in a coherent way is a true rarity. Raw, down-to-earth and heavenly, You Can Never Have A Long Enough Head Start sounds like finally hugging a friend, the one who truly gets you, after an eternity of social distancing. And Floral Tattoo records aren’t the only reason to love them. Proudly identifying as “pnw shoegays,” the band are questioning the nature and fairness of our reality in their lyrics while advocating for social justice and contributing to real-life changes in their community and the world.
Just like new underground movements are now popping up on the internet, and not so much in local venues, shoegaze isn’t all about introverts playing dreamy tunes on their guitars anymore. It’s also about introverts collaborating online from five different countries and uploading their dreamy tracks to SoundCloud. Fax Gang’s debut LP is a mind-altering specimen of shoegaze 3.0. Throbbing with bit-crushed layers of beats, glitched-out vocals and hazy melodies, Aethernet sounds 100% digital and 1,000% humanly emotional. We can call it many things, from hyperpop to HexD to shoegaze trap. Let’s go with “aethernetgaze.”
If you start with “Ugly,” you’ll witness a rare case of nothing,nowhere.-sounding emo rap with female vocals. Tracks such as “Alone,” on the other hand, will surprise you with how beautifully trap beats can be merged with gleaming guitars and washed-out atmospheres. The duo released their debut LP, Love Addict, in 2020, and are definitely ones to watch for their emotional and shoegaze-y fusion of rock and trap.
You can find Holy Fawn on Spotify’s Shoegaze Classics, browsing tags such as sludge, blackgaze, dream pop, doomgaze, post-rock and -metal or spot in Riot Fest 2021’s lineup. So which genre are they? There’s one essential regularity persisting throughout their discography, though: the buildup-explosion framework. Inside tracks, among tracks and between the records. And it’s this reverb-dense continuity connecting transcendental soundscapes and thick walls of sound, angelic singing and screams that allows to loosely tag them as shoegaze. That and their obsession with pedalboards.
Neptune Gomez, the mysterious entity behind Strawberry Hospital, looks like a scene kid. Even though it’s been a minute since the rawring 2000s, their releases will definitely find a way to your heart, whether your profile pic is still your favorite anime character or you just recently got into the dark side of the Y2K hype. Metal gigs, underground raves, parties, strawberry ice cream, moments of ecstasy and emotional pits are just some of the mental pictures Strawberry Hospital’s sounds bring up. In the spirit of hyperpop and trancecore, they’re drawing a thin line between human and digital by bit-crushing black-metal samples and layering Auto-Tuned vocals beyond recognition. The result? A beautiful, dark fantasy, transcending genre, gender and reality itself.
Shoegaze and ’80s synth-pop is escapism times two. And there’s hardly any other youth, historically and currently, drawn to escapism more than Eastern European kids (hello!). Wherever on the planet you are, Miserable Miracles is the drug you need, and Bernie Sanders shirt-wearing Lyubov is the trip sitter you deserve.
If abrasive, grunge-y melancholy is what you’re looking for in shoegaze, look no further. Moody yet intense, Slow Crush‘s dynamic instrumentals take shoegaze to peaks of intensity and heaviness, though not in the already common metal-sense, but a post-hardcore one. Meanwhile, Isa Holliday’s silky vocals remain calm and soothing, whether fusing with dreamy, slightly dissonant soundscapes or diving into a dark storm.
With a mission to create the most rock ’n’ roll pop to ever exist, the Japanese poetry rapper weaves shoegaze into a high-energy mix of J-pop, emo and hip-hop with lush guitar riffs, creative percussion patterns and funky bass. Haru Nemuri’s playful rapping (with unexpected screams here and there) is, of course, playing the lead role in her releases, as she’s experimenting with contrasting moods and atmospheres, from melancholic, action-packed ambiance to intense bursts of pure happiness. At least that’s how it sounds to someone who doesn’t understand her lyrics and has to rely on positive hooks in English. Now check out “Pink Unicorn.” See?
Sure, there’s no way to start a conversation about Avenade without bringing up Deftones. But this single-player isn’t just another underground artist putting out pieces of the oversaturated mega-genre of Deftones-core. Not only because Matt Hawkins’ vocals tend to sound a lot like Gerard Way’s in the emotional parts. It’s also because of crazy mood swings in his style that can go anywhere from hard-hitting noise rock (“Even So”) to hopelessly romantic, brutally naive and extremely melancholic, well, shoegaze. Like in “Closure,” our new favorite try-not-to-cry challenge.
Speaking of Deftones-core, Fleshwater, a project featuring members from Vein, are rapidly gaining traction after having only released an eight-minute-long demo, and not without good reason. This atmospheric alt metal-gaze with heavy grunge tendencies, subtle nü-metal throwbacks and compelling vocals conjures some of the best memories from the 2000s scene while sounding fresh and personal. One of the most anticipated LPs of 2021? Hell yeah.