Genre Spotlight: Shoegaze

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Despite the title, the genre “shoegaze” actually has nothing to do with shoes whatsoever. However, the genre does create an ethereal, dream-like effect through the use of distorted, hazy vocals accompanied by shimmering, layered guitars. By using these elements, a shoegaze song enables one to feel drawn into an introspective daydream. Although songs of this genre often have rather simple lyrics, they are capable of provoking emotions in listeners through its use of reflective phrases and psychedelic feel created by the layered guitars. Shoegaze music emerged in the late 1980’s and was assumed to have reached its peak popularity throughout the 1990’s with bands like My Bloody Valentine and Chapterhouse. While My Bloody Valentine was a rock band, their works from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s featured shoegazing, which continues to be their legacy today. Elements of shoegaze are tied in with rock elements in their hit song, “You Made Me Realise.” In this song, while the heavy guitar usage gives the song a vibe of rock and roll, the distorted vocals and use of effect pedals give the song a hazy vibe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GcdtkSPdPw

Additionally, Whirlpool, the 1991 debut album of Chapterhouse was one of the most renowned shoegaze albums. In the album’s hit song “Falling Down,” the lyrics are extremely distorted to the point where they are hardly recognizable, while the guitar accompaniment serves to create a grungy feel to the song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz6MxIzgKKM

However, shoegaze music is not limited to that of the 1990’s – in fact, modern bands have taken on elements of shoegaze as well. As a result, the influence of shoegaze continues to stay alive. For instance, in pop-punk band Turnover’s recent album Peripheral Vision, heavy elements of shoegaze are present. This can be seen in their song “Humming,” where an ambient humming can be heard as a result of a guitar pedal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3xIADK-Sjw

In addition, Beach House, an indie band, is known for bringing back shoegaze music. Their songs evoke a hypnotic mood in listeners, which is brought about by the echoing lyrics of the songs, along with the blissful harmonies persistent in the songs. This is especially prominent in their hit “Myth,” where a steady guitar harmony accompanies smoky, floating vocals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuvWc3ToDHg

Through both the songs of the early 1990’s and today, shoegaze is definitely a genre that can put listeners in a relaxing mood by leading them into a dream.

Image via https://munhwaexperience.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/shoegaze-gag/.