Emerging in the United Kingdom from the late 1980s, shoegaze is an indie sub-genre that has had its rise and subsequent fall. It’s ethereal vocals, reverberating guitars, heavy distortion and feedback, all woven together in a rich tapestry of (wall of) sound. The term was coined by the British press—until they decided to brutally slate it and move on to Britpop in the ’90s—to describe a group of young musicians idly staring at their shoes whilst playing overwhelmingly loud music with trippy effects.
Still, shoegaze has been making a comeback in the last decade. With pioneers like Slowdive and Ride releasing new albums after their hiatus of over twenty years, and My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields saying that we can expect a successor to their 2013 release in no time (actually, one was due last year’s summer and the other one this year – but one can have hope), it’s as if it was never all forgotten. So, here are the 50 best shoegaze albums of all time for you to revisit.
50. Ringthing – Jaguwar
Formed in 2012, German shoegazers JAGUWAR are all about noise and detail. Initially shocked us with the resounding quasi-My Bloody Valentine ‘Muffhead’ featured on their 2015 EP I, the band released their long-awaited debut studio album Ringthing in 2018. The latest release is, as described by the trio themselves, “a shimmering, reverberating, crashing monolith of an album”, and it’s pretty accurate.
49. LYT – The Morelings
Philadelphia-based dream pop duo The Morelings is like winter chill in the air, making you feel alive yet slightly morose.
With Kedra Caroline’s dreamlike vocals threaded in a tapestry of sound, LYT (2017) becomes a sweet fantasy that washes over you.
48. Ozean – Ozean
Influenced by the likes of Slowdive, Lush and Xmal Deutschland, Ozean were formed when guitarist Eric Shea was handed a flyer whilst existing a RIDE and Lush show in 1991.
Like many young bands of the early 90s, Ozean disbanded too soon. Fortunately, these 1992 recordings got rediscovered and begged for a reissue in 2016. It might just an EP containing the bare minimum – three tracks – but it perfectly bridges dream pop and shoegaze and it’s a great mini-album to drift off to.
47. In Solarium – Pia Fraus
Coming from Estonia, Pia Fraus have delivered a couple of our recent favourite shoegaze albums. The band beautifully encapsulates a touch of retro-ness, shadowy shoegaze and bubbly pop from the 80s and 90s. On In Solarium (2016), ‘How Fast Can You Love’ swiftly steals your attention with its soaring synth. Then, you proceed to the more disciplined yet dynamic ‘Octobergirl’ and gradually melt away within the confines of their wall of sound.
46. Leaper – Beliefs
Inspired by the likes of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, Toronto’s Belief have created an indie pop album Leaper (2015) that was heavily influenced by the shoegaze wall of sound.
The swaggering opener ‘Tidal Wave’ and its second track ‘1992’ bath you in the fountain of youth right away. It’s the kind of shoegaze that exists for your high-energy nights.
45. Clear Shot – TOY
Coming from Brighton, East Sussex, TOY are an indie rock band that taps into woozy shoegaze, whirring psych-pop and post-punk. Their third studio album Clear Shot is a gloomy and cynical exploration of how the world works, featuring a variety of bittersweet tracks such as ‘Another Dimension’ and ‘I’m Still Believing’. A shoegaze flavoured modern psych classic.
44. Cranekiss – Tamaryn
Love, lust and lost are often the subjects of New Zealand shoegazer Tamaryn’s music. Being fond of sexy music herself, love and sex became a real focal point on her 2015 release Cranekiss.
The title track/opener has a frail and pretty tune that instantly reminds you of Cocteau Twins and Lush. It delights anyone who pines for a vocal-driven ethereal goth/dream pop dialogue.
43. Urban Twilight – Oeil
Japanese shoegaze band Oeil has released two EPs in total, Urban Twilight (2016) and Myrtle (2016). Laced with distortion and delay, the opener ‘Strawberry Dream’ delivers a dense shoegaze atmospherics. It’s a short yet transcendent EP that is ready to feast your ears any minute.
42. 810 – Trementia
810 (2017) is a stylistically kaleidoscopic shoegaze album. The cheerful opening track ‘Please, Let’s Go Away’ is unfailingly one that you revisit from time to time, while ‘Oh Child’ is said to capture the atmospheric pressure of Joshua Tree-era U2, or early CHVRCHES.
Regardless, we think the Chilean dream pop trio is doing a pretty good job at making synth-driven shoegaze pop bops.
41. Delaware – Drop Nineteens
Influenced by the likes of bands like Slowdive and Th’ Faith Healers, Boston’s Drop Nineteens’ debut album Delaware (1992) is a celebration of indie rock and shoegaze.
Most known for their tracks ‘Winowa’ and ‘Kick the Tragedy’, Drop Nineteens enriched the shoegaze scene – which was predominantly a British genre at the time – with their youthful vocals and layered guitar noise. The band underwent member changes between the first and second studio albums, and eventually disbanded for good in 1995.
40. Spirit Youth – The Depreciation Guild
Led by Kurt Feldman, who later becomes the drummer of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Depreciation Guild are a trio consisting of also Christoph Hochheim (POBPAH’s guitarist) and his twin brother Anton Hochheim. Still, Spirit Youth (2010) fuses indie pop and shoegaze well enough to separate the band from their more widely-known status in POBPAH. Striving for an imaginative storyline, the lead track ‘Dream About Me’ seizes you with jingly verses and emotive riffs immediately.
39. Narrow Birth – Pale Dian
Austin shoegazers Pale Dian have delivered a woozy and sweet-sounding debut Narrow Birth in 2016. ‘In a Day’ and ‘Evan Evan’ are two stand-out tracks, in which the former is a glittering Cocteau Twins-esque listening experience and the latter is pure shimmer. It’s certainly one of the most enticing shoegaze albums made in recent years.
38. Få meg til verden i tide – The Megaphonic Thrift
Norwegian band The Megaphonic Thrift is acclaimed for being “face-meltingly intense” according to NME. Their 2016 release Få meg til verden i tide is essentially a leap into the stratosphere. It’s a sumptuous feast featuring the shoegaze-propelled ‘Hendene’ and ‘Pilene’, the synthwave-infused ‘De gale’, as well as the post-punk directed ‘Den evige heten’ – pure magical.
37. On High – Soundpool
Formed in 2005, New York-based shoegaze band Soundpool has released three albums and remained a cult favourite before they went on an indefinite hiatus. Their powerful debut On High (2006) glistens with iridescent sounds and colours. It’s most prominent in its title track/opener ‘On High’, as well as ‘Walking on Air’ and ‘Span the Universe’. This album is definitely favoured by those who savour psychedelic tunes.
Their powerful debut On High (2006) glistens with iridescent sounds and colours. It’s most prominent in its title track/opener ‘On High’, as well as ‘Walking on Air’ and ‘Span the Universe’. This album is definitely favoured by those who savour psychedelic tunes.
36. Immaterial Visions – The KVB
Active since 2010, the British audio-visual duo The KVB has released six albums that transform stylistically across genres – post-punk, psychedelic, shoegaze, techno and darkwave. On Immaterial Visions (2013), the duo’s second studio album, they’ve fabricated the most thrilling shoegaze track ‘Dayzed’.
On top of crafting synth-laden tunes, the band is also known for incorporating wonderful visuals during their live performance. Their latest album Only Now Forever (2018) also shows an amazing level of maturity in terms of production – a gratifying contemporary darkwave album that is worth a listen.
35. fetch – Crisis Arm
American band Crisis Arm’s fetch (2014) has all the qualities of a daring shoegaze album: ethereal-sounding, obscure vocals and overwhelming effects. With crashing crescendo on tracks like ‘every time’ and ‘rituals’, Crisis Arm’s shoegaze creation is one that can’t be glossed over.
34. Comfort – Splashh
When you first heard ‘All I Wanna Do’, your first instinct told you that the energy of the band was palpable and fun. Formed in 2012 and now on an indefinite hiatus, the British band (formed in London, yet none the members were actually from the city) has produced two studio albums, Comfort (2013) and Waiting a Lifetime (2017). They sing about the beauty of endless fascination and idling time away with your crushes. To start, Comfort is definitely an amusing psychedelic/shoegaze album to indulge in.
33. Pe’ahi – The Raveonettes
Every time The Raveonettes are on, it simultaneously gets our blood pumping and adrenaline flowing. Having released eight studio albums from 2003 to 2017, the Danish indie rock duo is known for dosing listeners with over-the-top grunge rock noise and spacey shoegaze. Whether it’s the frenetic opening track ‘Endless Sleeper’ or the unapologetic ‘A Hell Below’, Pe’ahi (2014) is a roaring one that excites not only shoegaze fans, but that of experimental and rock as well, from start to finish.
32. Psychocandy – The Jesus and Mary Chain
Scottish band The Jesus and Mary Chain’s debut album Psychocandy stands the test of time as a prime example of aggressive noise, alternative rock and proto-shoegaze.
After quitting their jobs, brothers Jim and William Reid formed JAMC in 1983 and soon gained Creation Records’ Alan McGee’s attention. Released in 1985, Psychocandy is a masterpiece coated with abrasive guitar and extravagant distortion. The opening track ‘Just Like Honey’ sends a flood of warm joy to course through your veins. Its follow-up Darkland (1987) featuring the title track and ‘Deep One Perfect Morning’ makes an enjoyable listen as well.
31. 23 – Blonde Redhead
Fans are piling on for Blonde Redhead after ‘For the Damaged Coda’ was featured on Rick and Morty. But the American alternative rock band has long been a cult staple for lovers of dream pop and shoegaze. 23 is their seventh studio album, also the first album they self-produced (with producer Mitchell Froom assisting on only two tracks, ‘Silently’ and ‘Top Ranking’). Guided by Kazu Makino’s angelic vocals, the album is a mystical journey into the clouds, and a trip to the holy mountain.
30. Bowery Electric – Bowery Electric
With genres ranging from ambient to post-rock and shoegaze, Bowery Electric are best known for their haunting second studio album Beat (1996). Nevertheless, their self-titled debut delivers enthralling shoegaze tunes with sturdy hooks, emphasising the beauty of heavy guitar feedback.
29. Ladies & Gentlemen We’re Floating in Space – Spiritualized
English space rock band Spiritualized’s third studio album Ladies & Gentlemen We’re Floating in Space (1997) was recorded soon after the break-up between founder Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman) and the band’s keyboard player Kate Radley. From ‘I Think I’m in Love’ to ‘Broken Heart’, the album is somewhere between 60s-influenced shoegaze rock and a warm purr that helps you mellow out. It’s exactly what it says it is – floating in space, a timeless psychedelic voyage.
28. Molten Young Lovers – Airiel
Coming from Chicago, Illinois, Airiel refer their music as: “It’s loud. It’s pretty. You can dance to it.” The full-length second studio album Molten Young Lovers (2017) makes you reminisce about 80s shoegaze, bands like Ride and Chapterhouse. It’s warm, fuzzy and charming. It also makes you wonder why it’s not getting the attention it deserves.
27. Exploding Head – A Place to Bury Strangers
Granted the title ‘the loudest band in New York City’, it’s no surprise that A Place to Bury Strangers are heavily influenced by the holy trinity: The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division. Having discovered the glamour of earth-shattering (or what he simply calls: messed-up) sound at a young age, guitarist Oliver Ackermann has since fell madly in love with the sound of feedback. Their second studio album Exploding Head (2009) valiantly ventures into the darkness and makes your whole night disappear. For those who fancy shoegaze albums that pack a punch, this is the one we recommend.
26. Citrus – Asobi Seksu
New York’s Asobi Seksu are a breath of fresh air. While being marvelous at creating a cosmic and dreamlike soundscape with heavy reverb, frontwoman Yuki Chikudate’s lovely vocals – singing in half Japanese and half English – makes Citrus (2007) that much more sublime. Listen to ‘Thursday’ and allow the sugary music to wash over you.
25. Nowhere – Leave the Planet
Nowhere (2016) by British shoegazers Leave the Planet is poetries made out of nostalgia and retro-futuristic fantasies. The EP features six tracks, including the brokenhearted ‘Forever’ and the much-beloved trippy ‘White Astra’. They’ve later released six more B-side tracks and it’s some of the finest modern shoegaze that you can consume.
24. Collider – Roku Music
In what began as a home-recording project, Brisbane-based Roku Music soon evolved into a spirited four piece and released their brilliantly executed album Collider in 2014. Starting with a part-snarky-part-seductive title track, the album instantaneously fills you with intoxicating sensations. You can feel the joyous intensity crawling under your skin, and that makes a beautiful recipe for any time-tested shoegaze albums.
23. Colour Trip – Ringo Deathstarr
Ringo Deathstarr is quite a name. Guitarist Elliott Frazier expressed that the band decided to call themselves that after watching a film about The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The American shoegaze band produced Colour Trip in 2011 with pleasurable shoegaze beats and a tinge of darkly cinematic psychedelia – check out ‘Imagine Hearts’, ‘So High’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’. And yes, they do sound fairly like My Bloody Valentine.
22. On Fire – Galaxie 500
Lasted for four years only, Galaxie 500 have made an incredible impact to the dream pop scene. Their songs are a perfect mix of melancholy and comfort. With just a hint of shoegazing, their widely-known second studio album On Fire (1989) crafts an airy dream for your everlasting sorrows.
21. Blonder Tongue Audio Baton – Swirlies
Formed in 1990, Boston shoegaze outfit Swirlies was responding to traditional shoegaze with lo-fi soundbite, noise guitar and incessant drumming. Blonder Tongue Audio Baton (1993) is stuffed with endless charm, and we’re enraptured by the hypnotising ‘Pancake’ and ‘Jeremy Parker’ – and their sound is just as quirky as the song titles.
20. The Comforts of Madness – Pale Saints
While we’re all swept away by Pale Saints’ 1991 cover of Nancy Sinatra’s sultry ‘Kinky Love’, the British band has a lot more to offer. Active from 1987 to 1996, their debut The Comforts of Madness (1990) is a soul-stirring dream pop and shoegaze classic that supplies both sunny and heart-rending sentiments. From the all-encompassing ‘Sight of You’ to the cascading ‘Sea of Sound’, this record well deserves to own the best-of title.
19. The Millia Pink and Green – Sway
Overflowing with dreamy melodies, The Millia Pink and Green (2003) is a captivating EP by Sway. Tracks like ‘Fall’ and ‘Sounds Like Everyone’ paint a hazy dream desirable for all shoegaze listeners. Formed by Andrew Saks as a four-piece garage-rock group initially in 1999, Saks later took on Sway as a solo project in 2010 and is now making electronic music under the name FLDPLN.
18. Path – Kraus
Beneath the layers of distortion and camouflage as a full-fledged shoegaze band, Kraus is actually driven by one man only – noise musician Will Kraus from Brooklyn. Nonetheless, Path (2018) is unfailingly one of the most brilliant contemporary shoegaze albums ever. Starting from its second track ‘Bum’ to its third ‘Games’ to its fourth ‘Grow’ and so on, the album continues its ascent to pure perfection. It ultimately helps you achieve catharsis and find an outlet for your frustration.
17. Lost – The Stargazer Lilies
As pioneers of shoegaze new wave and a continual of their former band Soundpool, The Stargazer Lilies are a blend of dreamy gazes and psych-rock explosion (think MBV meets Pink Floyd). Medicine’s Brad Laner describes them like this: “This is what your so-called shoegaze is supposed to sound like. Incredible melodies and singing plus great guitar work.”
The soul-tripping magic has been evident in their debut We Are the Dreamers (2013) and its follow-up Doors to the Sun (2016), still, the band hit a new high with their latest release Lost (2017) – with two of our most favourable tracks being ‘Fukitol’ and ‘U R Y’.
16. Ashes Grammar – A Sunnyday in Glasgow
The second studio album by American band A Sunnyday in Glasgow – Ashes Grammar (2009) – is a godsend that resembles true ethereality. Featuring twenty-two songs in total, Ashes Grammar surprisingly makes it effortless for you to listen to the album in its entirety in one sitting. While the whirring ‘Close Chorus’ stands out upon first hearing, its following tracks – including but not limited to – ‘Evil, with Evil, against Evil’ and ‘Canalfish’ and ‘Blood White’ attest to the significance of such persistent tracklist.
15. Nowhere – Ride
Formed in 1988 in Oxford, Ride played a prominent role in the early 90s shoegaze scene that was emerging in England. Prior to their hiatus of twenty-one years, four albums were released, in which Nowhere (1990) and Going Blank Again (1992) stole the spotlight.
The opening track ‘Seagull’ gives you a big boost of euphoria while ‘Vapour Trail’ appeases with a catchy melody. Even though Ride are ridiculed at times amid shoegaze fanfare for being too Britpop-esque, they remain a cult figure loved by many.
14. Heaven is a Place – LSD & the Search for God
San Francisco‘s psychedelic shoegaze rockers have released two EPs, a self-titled (2007) and Heaven is a Place (2016). Despite being short and precise (every shoegaze listener lusts for more than just five tracks per release), Heaven is a Place is an absolute whirlwind that naturally engages listeners with a powerful dynamic. It starts off with a bombarding opening track ‘Heaven’, then slowing transitioning to the sharp-edged ‘(I Don’t Think) We Should Take It Slow’ and eventually mellowing out on the ending track ‘Without You’.
13. Head Over Heels – Cocteau Twins
Scottish dream-pop pioneers Cocteau Twins are best known for their whimsical Heaven or Las Vegas (1990) and it’s the most accessible album if you’re new to CT. While their debut Garlands (1982) combines post-punk with a goth aesthetic, its follow-up Head Over Heels (1983) demonstrates a bewildering proto-shoegaze soundscape that complements Elizabeth Fraser’s wistful heartfelt vocals. Some essential tracks include ‘Sugar Hiccup’, ‘In Our Angelhood’ and ‘The Tinderbox (Of a Heart)’.
Cocteau Twins have wielded immense influence on a number of bands such as Slowdive, Lush and Cranes. As Neil Halstead from Slowdive said on the documentary Beautiful Noise, “it [Cocteau Twins] didn’t sound like anything I think I’d ever heard before. And I think it took a few listens to try and figure out what was really going on, and get your head around the fact that they were vocals but they weren’t actually in words I could recognize. So I was pretty blown away.”
12. Doppelgänger – Curve
Doppelgänger (1992) is a reverb-heavy debut studio album by British alternative rock band Curve. Formed in 1990 and disbanded in 2005, Curve offered both graceful shoegazing and tantalising post-punk elements whilst it lasted – and to be honest, how you’d imagine Cocteau Twins if they had gone full-blown distortion. Few can resist being bewitched by Curve’s most famous track ‘Horror Head’, and perhaps the rest of Doppelgänger.
11. Isn’t Anything – My Bloody Valentine
The beginning of everything: Isn’t Anything is the debut album by the English-Irish legends My Bloody Valentine since their formation in Dublin in 1983. The ear-piercing guitar sufficed to make it an instant classic in 1988. It’s raw, avant-garde, gritty and obscure. And it never ceases to put a smile on your face when Shields whispers his unpurified thoughts on ‘Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside)’ beneath such exhilarating cacophony.
10. Whirlpool – Chapterhouse
Coming from Berkshire, England, Chapterhouse released one of the most quintessential albums in shoegaze history in 1990, Whirlpool. Featuring jangly indie pop beats and distorted guitar, Whirlpool is a work of outstanding artistry. Like the mellifluous second track ‘Pearl’ depicts: ‘Burn me out from the inside, turn me upside down. I’ve got to satisfy my soul, satisfy my soul’, this is what the album is capable of doing.
9. Pygmalion – Slowdive
Founder of Creation Records, Alan McGee, dropped Slowdive a week after the release of Pygmalion (1995) because they refused to deliver a pop follow-up record. Pygmalion, the third studio album by Slowdive before their hiatus of twenty-two years, leans toward the ambient and experimental spectrum.
For a time it was disregarded, for it encapsulates a rather futuristic vision; unlike the previous two which are relatively more sweetened for the public ears. Pygmalion is an acquired taste, you float away in a cold reverie upon close listening. It’s also important to mention that the demo version of Pygmalion might even be more exquisite for some – to start, you should listen to ‘Miranda (demo version)’.
8. Spooky – Lush
Spooky, the second studio album (or their first full-length if you don’t take the mini album Scar into account) by Lush released in 1992, exudes a cheerful air that is unfamiliar (yet welcomed) in the shoegaze fashion. Featuring boisterous tracks like ‘For Love’ and ‘Superblast!’ as well as the more light-hearted ‘Fantasy’, Spooky engages listeners with a refreshing and emotional soundscape that is built with soothing sorrows and candied dreams.
7. velocity:design:comfort. – Sweet Trip
Established in 1995 by Roberto Burgos, San Francisco-based experimental band Sweet Trip’s second studio album velocity:design:comfort. (2003) stands out distinctively. Of shoegaze and electronic experimentation, it’s splendidly animated and fiercely unstoppable; all in all a multi-layered brain-melting listening experience.
Some of our favourite tracks include ‘Dsco’ and ‘Chocolate Matter’. We’re entranced by its simple yet mischievous lines: ‘Baby, run away, to the sun, to the comfort. Run away, deeper to see. Baby, run away, deep summer sea’. In 2013, Burgos uploaded the track ‘Things to Ponder While Falling’ on Soundcloud, stating that it as “probably *not* the last Sweet Trip song ever”. He later released the album 1NE under the alias .blacktunic in 2017.
6. The Buried Life – Medicine
Formed in Los Angeles in 1990, alternative noise rock band Medicine was described by Pitchfork as the closest thing in the US that answers to My Bloody Valentine. Their second album, The Buried Life, opens with a disorienting track ‘The Pink’ and continues with more glamorous and mind-bending tracks like ‘Babydoll’ and ‘Slut’.
It’s undoubtedly one of our favourite shoegaze albums of all time.
5. Just for a Day – Slowdive
Filled with foggy atmospherics and melodic bliss, Just for a Day is a stunning debut released in 1991 by the English five-piece that formed in Reading, Berkshire in 1989.
From the heart-wrenching ‘Catch the Breeze’ to the slightly optimistic ‘Brighter’, the ethereal vocals of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell walk you through the moody paths of mellow shoegazing. Upon its release, there were stickers labelled on the album copies stating: “like a mind altering substance, without the risk”.
4. m b v – My Bloody Valentine
While most shoegaze listeners worship Loveless, m b v is a remarkable yet underrated successor. It dials down on the earth-shattering teenage angst and delivers more delicious layers of distortion. The second track ‘Only Tomorrow’ puts you through catharsis after catharsis and eventually to a peaceful slumber.
It is the true pinnacle of subtlety and beauty. Whilst half of m b v was recorded in 1996-1997, Shields only resumed recording on and off in 2006, 2011-2012, and ultimately released it in 2013. It’s always a long haul for any MBV albums but it’s worth the wait.
3. Ceres & Calypso in the Deep Time – Candy Claws
Perhaps one of our top favourite shoegaze albums, Ceres & Calypso in the Deep Time (2013) is the third studio album by American band Candy Claws.
Inspired by a fictional document named Blood Ark, it’s a concept album about a forgotten seal-like beast and her human partner discovering the depths of the world in the Mesozoic Era. From beginning to end, it’s swimming with ecstasy – ‘Fell in Love (At the Water)’; it’s popping serotonin-infused candy – ‘Pangaea Girls (Magic Feelings)’; and it’s a glorious pilgrimage – ‘Transitional Bird (Clever Girl)’.
2. Souvlaki – Slowdive
As the most well-known album by Slowdive, the sounds of Souvlaki (1993) successfully weave together as a set of retro-fuzzy soundscapes that delight.
While the album was born when shoegaze was slated and Britpop was praised by the British press, Souvlaki has made a definitive statement of its own and substantially gained cult status from contemporary critics. Despite being perpetuated by romance and loss and shuddering anxiety (such as ‘Dagger’ which is addressed by the band as their most melancholic tune), Souvlaki is still warm and soothing like the taste of honey.
1. Loveless – My Bloody Valentine
One of the most, if not The most, influential shoegaze albums that changed music. Glossed with shape-shifting feedback and experimental guitar, Loveless (1991) caresses in the gentlest yet most hard-hitting manner – an oxymoron that can’t be disproved. Whether it’s the bold yearning of ‘Only Shallow’ or the defeated sentiment of ‘Sometimes’, the pain slowly subsides when you’re wrapped in its comforting strength.
Recorded over two years across nineteen different studios, MBV worked with about 45 engineers – and only 16 were credited – for they were the ones who got let into the room. Not to mention that Loveless drove Creation Records to the brink of bankruptcy, classic.