At the end a highly rewarding years for dream-jangle-indie-pop and beyond, and over and above all expectations for shoegaze too, just slightly disappointing for psychedelia. Week by week you can always listen to catching tunes that never cease to deeply amaze and wonder, the pure magic of pop after all.
Here is, in summary, the records that I enjoyed most over the year, with the usual involuntary omissions and strictly in no particular order.
- BLUSHING “Self-Titled” [Wallflower Records / Hands and Moment]
I had expressed some fears of possible reiteration about the same formula and how it could adapt to long-distance, instead the Austin-based dynamic two husbands and wife combo have been boldly able to add enough instrumental variation, ably implementing post-rock guitar tones and premonitory dark leanings to their distinctive, intoxicating and seductive justasposition of dreamily introspective ecstatic moods and outbursts of soaring 6-string distortion intensified by psycho-emotional lyrics/vocals, simmering with latent aggression from quietly anxious lips.
- CAPITOL “Dream Noise” [Meritorio Records / Kingfisher Bluez Records]
Weaving their way, with ease and confidence, through four 4 decades of guitar pop, to create shining happy/sad guitar melodies atop an eternal sparkle of ethereal distortion led by dreamy brooding vocals, Ontario‘s indie rock five-piece Capitol offers heartfelt introspection over deconstructed degrees of love, longing, and flawed human existence.
- NO SUITS IN MIAMI “I Hope That No One Sees Me” [Self Released]
Great to see the Swedish indie-pop quartet from Lund, one of the first band featured on this blog around two years ago, deliver such precious gem of a debut that shines with warm blooming elegance and wistful melodic charm.
- REV REV REV “Kykeon” [Fuzz Club]
Italian band boldly ventures their fuzz and reverb-embedded sound into unusual, challenging and unknown, obscure sonic realms, where thick curtains of reverb and distortion ricocheting into caustic outbursts of edgy, guttural guitar riffs, ominous rumbling bass, stomping rhythms, and gritty intoxicating harmonies, blazing with unbridled energy and raw power, successfully pushing the boundaries of the band’s decade-long sonic journey, steeped in shoegaze and psychedelia, to overwhelming and magnificent new peaks.
- PEPPERMINT SHOWERS “Mopey Karaoke” [Self Released]
Finally has taken shape the debut album for Perth-based ‘passion-pop’ band born out of the imaginative songwriting duo of Darren Stapley and Sandon French (previously Lanark), whose deep densely layered, emotionally wistful and invigorating, sadness-ridden dreamy sound drifts hazily between fizzing yet dilatated sheen of early 90’s shoegaze, ambient rarefactions and narcotic, sunbathed droning psychedelia, sparkling with restrained intensity and hazy, lush enchantment.
- LIFE ON VENUS “Odes To The Void” [Shelflife Records]
In a year of brilliant full-lengths from Mother Russia (Blankenberge, Chkbns, Inverse, Spring Winds, come to mind), the debut album of Moscow‘s 5-piece Life on Venus is the perfect sum of what we crave in the shoegaze realm. It’s elegant, blissful, magnificent, otherworldly, mesmeric at times dark and dramatic, it harks back beautifully to when shoegaze sound was at its prime.
- LOST FILM “Zero Summer” [Self Released]
Splicing the threads of Factory and Sarah Records legacy, through a minimalistic instrumental setup made of vintage synths and drum machines along jangly 6-string inflections, the guitar pop project of Easthampton, MA-based multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Hewitt (previously known as Young Minds and Orca Orca), shows his effortless knack for depicting hazily contemplative and nostalgic soundscapes infused with delicacy and subtle restlessness, with airy evocative synth washes gently swaying with immaculate glistening jangly guitar lines and warm and languid vocals, wrapping your senses in the wistful melodic elegance and ecstatic aural caresses, of his most cohesive and mature release so far.
- STAR HORSE “You Said Forever” [Startracks]
Stockholm based 4-piece Star Horse‘s long-awaited debut album beautifully joins the dots between dream pop and shoegaze through immersive, spellbinding, slow-building, dream-like rarefactions, unbridled emotional shimmering noisy crescendos, and seductive ethereal vocals, building an irresistible feast for all the senses, sealed by the sheer beauty of the over 9 minutes long “Albatross”, to completely get lost in.
- WE MELT CHOCOLATE “Self-Titled” [Annibale Records]
It took years, but the debut of the Italian band We Melt Chocolate, based in Florence, channeling classic MBV’s noisy abrasions and Lush’s pop ethereality, swifts brilliantly through energetic swathes of shoegaze reverberations deftly instilled with dreamy fascinating melodies and clear celestial vocal harmonies, that gently usher into kaleidoscopic, floating, rarefied yet dynamic soundscapes making for an immersive, intense and ultimately inspiring listen.
- SEABLITE “Grass Stains & Novocaine” [Emotional Response]
Impossible to resist fresh and concise energy-ridden odd-pop tunes from San Francisco‘s 4-piece, alternating between hypnotic abrasive noisy distortions and irresistible sugar-flavored melodies, driving meandering basslines and fervent bouncing rhythms, both nostalgic and distinctive, especially if written and performed with such natural urgency and charm.
- THE LEAF LIBRARY “The World Is A Bell” [WIAIWYA]
Always swaying between twisted and delicate 60s-tinged ethereal dream-like retro-futurist pop of the first 2015’s LP to dense and darkly abstract electronic experiments, the sophomore album from North-East London sextet harking back to their debut, through an organically rich and flexible instrument set-up, between hypnotic rhythmic iterations, sparkling reverb-charged guitars, sinuously pulsing bass lines, droning repetitions, spacious glistening keyboards, intricate brass, and orchestral arrangements, in support of the melodious lulling voice, coated with nuances of evocative melancholy and deep nostalgic moods, flow and curl with restrained elegance, warm melodicism, and timid yet staggering beauty.
- LACING “Without” [Elder Magick Records / Handstand Records]
Chattanooga‘s experimental heavy shoegaze four-piece Lacing deliver a sophomore album overflowing with ethereal angst combining sparkling guitar melodies with grungey reverb-drenched, densely noisy outbursts. as distorted and submerged tormented vocals become lost in heartache, tension, and pain, before a closing fifteen-minute trance-inducing esoteric drip loops relentlessly towards (∞).
- THE S-BENDS “Nothing Feels Natural To Me” [Stable Label]
Vaguely recalling Aussie darlings like The Go-Betweens and The Triffids, without disdaining the early VU and REM, Sidney-based 5-piece align, with stark personality, along the modern and fresh guitar rock of their peers, conjuring up tunes of heartfelt intensity and disarming fragility, through nimble distillates of clear sparkling six-string melodies and restrained yet overflowing thought-provoking personal narrative that evokes both alienations and belonging through genuine introspective relateabilities.
- CEREMONY east coast “Candy” [Self Released]
An experiment in the psychosis of noise, the new album from Fredericksburg‘s project of former shoegaze luminary Skywave, John Fedowitz, along with the crashing and rattling rhythmic contribution of his wife Sandra, delivers eleven tracks of abrasive and piercing guitar distortions, neurotically needling resonant basslines into urgently disturbed atmospherics eviscerated in the masochistic charm of detached anti-social disenchantment. ‘A must-hear for those drawn to the darkly heavier side of shoegaze’.
- THE CHERRY WAVE “Solasta” [Self Released]
The third album for Glasgow‘s shoegaze artisans rippled with reverb-informed guitar sonic abrasions and distortions, boisterous 90s noise-rock flavors, emo accents, and relentless infectious, power pop-tinged, melodic brilliance. We need such unique and creative DIY bands like The Cherry Waves more than ever…
- DAISIES “What Are You Waiting For?” [Perennial / K Records]
As well as Saint-Etienne, one of the main sources of inspiration, and the glorious Él Records, they would already be band of the year if just for the amazing covers, but the Olympia based trio, born out of the quite well known consonant-filled bands CCFX, TransFX, CC DUST, is an addictive blissfully hypnotic bass charged and beat-driven ‘clean-pop’ affair, embellished by charming vocals, that skulks somewhere between trip-hop, synth-pop, post-acid-house, jazzy inflections, with just enough distinctive melodic prowess and eerie trip-inducing flair to keep the listener deeply hooked and bedazzled.
- MAGIC SHOPPE “Circles” (Cardinal Fuzz / Little Cloud Records)
Boston, Massachusetts based 4-piece Magic Shoppe stresses their atmospheric and rapturous blend of robust fuzzy psychedelic rock and sombre, shoegaze-y swirling distortions and reverbs, striking with accuracy and sonically charged intensity, to new captivating heights.
- ÚLTIM CAVALL “Alaska” [Discos de Kirlian]
Natural delicate hazy inflections and refurbished darkened energy for Barcelona‘s Catalan-singing noisy dream-poppers, instilled in a second album filled with their instantly endearing exquisite chiming guitar sound, at the same time intriguingly familiar yet fresh and invigorating, strained by post-punk-ish bleak pulsating basslines and New Order-like icy clean synth riffs, bouncing with impeccable wistful melodies and seductive nostalgic charm.
- FRANKIE TEARDROP DEAD “Plane Eclipse” [Little Cloud Records / Captain Beefart Records]
UK experimental psych-dream-gazer collective relocated to Manchester, continue their beguiling and awe-inspiring empirical sonic journey, effortlessly bridging the gap between shoegaze noisy reverberations and ecstatic mind-blowing psychedelia, with their third and most accomplished album to date, sultry and tantalizing, laced with dazed, endearing melodic spices.
- POPPEL “Make Sense” [Meritorio Records]
Through reverberant, vibrant sparkling guitar melodies and the right amount of noise, Belgium‘s guitar pop finest POPPEL continue, throughout their sophomore album, filled with raw energy and melodic abundance, to surf the cracks between jangle-pop, shoegaze, and fuzzy guitar pop, in such a magnificent way as few are able to achieve.