Shoegaze is a genre of alternative rock that originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s and is known for its heavy use of guitar effects and dreamy, atmospheric sound.
The genre has produced some truly great songs over the years, and in this article, we will be taking a look at some of the best.
From early pioneers like My Bloody Valentine and Ride to more recent acts like Beach House and M83, these songs showcase the best of what shoegaze has to offer.
Get ready to put on your headphones, close your eyes, and drift away into a world of fuzzy guitars and swirling melodies!
1. Star Sail – The Verve
The Verve, fronted by Richard Ashcroft, is well-known as a Britpop band, but their early work was heavily influenced by prog bands like Aphrodite’s Child and the British shoegaze scene.
This track in particular, which set the precedent for much of the more thought-provoking material on their 1997 album Urban Hymns, showcases Ashcroft’s mesmerizing vocal performance and the heavy use of delay trails.
This album not only provided guidance for many artists as they approached the 21st century, but it also became a staple of the British sound of the decade.
2. When You Sleep – My Bloody Valentine
My Bloody Valentine is undoubtedly one of the precursors of the sound for the genre.
When You Sleep is now a classic that marked the golden age of the shoegaze genre and that should be included in every playlist.
The song is supported by a muddy base of almost punk guitars, paired with hypnotic high leads, while the vocals take us through a melodic journey as only this band could do it.
3. Hands – Swervedriver
Swervedriver is an English rock band that was formed in Oxford in 1989 and is known for their association with the shoegaze and neo-psychedelic movements.
The band’s sound is characterized by the heavy use of distortion, reverb, and feedback, which gives their music a unique and otherworldly feel.
One of the standout tracks from their 1991 album Raise is the song “Hands,” which showcases these distinctive elements of the band’s sound.
The song begins with a driving, distorted guitar riff that sets the tone for the rest of the track.
Vocals, delivered in a dreamy and ethereal style, come in soon after and add an additional layer of atmosphere to the song.
Overall, “Hands” is a perfect example of the band’s unique and powerful sound, and is a must-listen for any fans of shoegaze and neo-psychedelia.
4. Leave Them All Behind – Ride
“Leave Them All Behind” is the opening track on Ride’s 1992 album Going Blind Again, and it is a true masterpiece of the shoegaze genre.
The song begins with a pulsating synth line that quickly gives way to a series of artfully spliced, distorted guitar riffs.
Unlike many of their contemporaries in the shoegaze scene, Ride did not shy away from incorporating melodies into their music, and this track is a perfect example of how they were able to create innovative, experimental sounds while still maintaining a strong sense of accessibility.
One of the things that sets “Leave Them All Behind” apart from other shoegaze songs is its use of texture and layering.
The guitars and synths blend together seamlessly, creating a dense, multi-dimensional soundscape that is both mesmerizing and captivating.
The vocals, add an additional layer of atmosphere to the song, making it feel like the listener is being transported to another world.
Overall, “Leave Them All Behind” is a testament to Ride’s skill and creativity as musicians, and it is a song that helped to cement their place as one of the pioneering bands of the shoegaze movement.
Few bands are as deeply connected with the birth of a genre as Ride are with shoegaze, and this track is a must-listen for anyone interested in the history of the genre.
5. When the Sun Hits – Slowdive
“When the Sun Hits” is featured in Slowdive’s second album, “Souvlaki”.
Released in 1993, the song is probably their most popular one, with over 4 million views on Youtube.
It features a catchy melody and a hazy guitar-driven sound that is typical of the shoegaze genre.
Many fans and critics alike consider “When the Sun Hits” to be one of the best examples of the genre, with the dreamy and atmospheric qualities that have made it a fan favorite for nearly three decades.
6. Space Song – Beach House
I bet you have probably seen the Pedro Pascal meme where he goes from laughing to crying while this song plays in the background.
Its meme status has given it unprecedented popularity for music in the shoegaze genre, especially in this decade and among gen Zers.
The kicker for all of this is that “Space Song” is an amazing tune that incorporates everything that we love from the genre, and delivers it with a slightly more modern sound.
7. Don’t Save Us From The Flames – M83
With their unique take on the style’s sound, M83 shows an interesting angle that I recommend you explore, especially if you are more of an old-school guy.
The song starts with a drum fill and then the full band kicks in with a lush intro full of the quirks we all love.
Then, everything falls back to an eerie synth and heavily reverbed vocals.
As the song progresses we alternate through slow-energy verses and full-band choruses.
This contrast does the song a great service and is probably my favorite from M83.