It was a truly great year for new shoegaze and dream pop. Forthwith, our picks for the best shoegaze and dream pop albums of 2014.
1. Ringo Deathstarr – God’s Dream
They’d call it a long EP, we’ll call it an album. 2014 belonged to the mighty Deathstarr, and nobody was able to knock them off their perch. With the relative implosion of Tamaryn, Ringo Deathstarr claims the flag as the standard bearer of shoegaze and dream pop this year. That they managed to experiment with the form without losing their soul made it that much more magical a ride.
2. Seasurfer – Dive In
Melody, texture, colour… all of it dropped in one great slab midway through the year, taking a lot of people by surprise. The 4AD is strong in this one. Biggest sound of the year. Admittedly, we’re a bit verklempt that vocalist Dorian departed the band months after the release. She brought a beauty, strength and authority that really launched the album into the stratosphere. New vocalist Julia Beyer (Chandeen) will bring a significantly different feel going forward, but she has a pretty epic style in her own right, so we look forward to seeing how this band evolves.
3. Cheatahs – Cheatahs
It’s a bit of a cheat that some of the songs were released before the album, so it didn’t really feel entirely “new”. But nobody distilled the essence, the spirit of the sound any better than Cheatahs. All hail the masters.
4. Lightfoils – Hierarchy
A jewel of many facets. A shimmering intensity they had only previously hinted at. A bloody gorgeous feast of songwriting and sound. Masterly.
5. The Lees of Memory – Sisyphus Says
Yes, we’ve been “about” them since the first single “We Are Siamese” (#1 in 2013). We knew about their Superdrag pedigree. We also figured the album couldn’t maintain the promise of the single. But DAMN it’s close. If you’re a fan of the sound (you’d not be listening to DKFM if you weren’t), Sisyphus Says is like putting on the comfy house slippers. Immediately warm, inviting, somewhat familiar but always surprising. We can only hope there’s more where this came from.
6. Tennis System – Techincolour Blind
It’s not like this didn’t have crossover written all over it. Shoegaze, post-punk, even pop punk infuse the refreshed, almost optimistic sound from Tennis System. That so many “alternative” radio programmers absolutely whiffed on this album says nothing about the lads, or about the quality of the record. It says more about the weak-kneed nature of the latte alt.radio set.
7. The Raveonettes – Pe’ahi
These folks could just put it on cruise control and sell another boatload of albums. Instead they experiment with the form and write some compelling tunes with shrill edges, just to prove their mastery.
8. Cre•scen•do – Lost Thoughts
Shimmering guitar-based dream pop from LA? That you can dance to? One of the breakout surprises of 2014.
9. A Shoreline Dream – The Silent Sunrise
In the vast wasteland that was the mid ‘aughts, very few bands carried the banner of this sound proudly, with their own unique stamp. Mix metaphors much? You could count on compelling releases from a few artists: Airiel, Tears Run Rings, and A Shoreline Dream. ASD only sharpen their craft on this effort, with driving rhythms, warm soundscapes and memorable tunes. With so many “I just picked up Loveless and a guitar” bands out there, cannot begin to express how amazing it is to have a credible band prove their chops, and show the kids how it’s done. Welcome back.
10. Highlands – Dark Matter Traveler
We are most gratified when the bands we are early adopters of make good. This is that. A tasty blend of psych and shoegaze, without leaning too hard on either, and without relying on the tired cliches of either.
11. Nothing – Guilty of Everything
The boys have earned every bit of success that’s come to them, through hard work, great songwriting, and a tour schedule that would cripple mere mortals.
12. Be Forest – Earthbeat
I’ll admit, the transition from the shoegaze-inspired pop with Druidic rhythms of Cold is somewhat a distance from the dream pop with Polynesian rhythms of Earthbeat. But this most impressive trio of musicians invite you into a totally unique world, and make you hunger for what’s next.
13. Whirr – Sway
Noted internet trolls also make music. It would be an epic belly flop if they were only known for clickbait while promoting their new album. But Sway proves once and for all they expect to be taken seriously as songwriters as well, and the evidence is hard to deny.
14. Lowtide – Lowtide
Male and female, light and shade, this album from Australia’s Lowtide meets and exceeds the early promise of a band we were hoping to succeed. They’ve found another gear.
15. The Florist – Dark Entries
Japan makes the list with compelling tunes and great musicianship. What a revelation.
16. Soft Science – Detour
Sugar-sweet tunes that bridge shoegaze and dream pop, while cheating neither.
17. Juvenile Juvenile – Our Great Escape
With the name Kensei Ogata on it, you’ll get our attention immediately. The godfather of Japanese shoegaze and dream pop is involved in his best release in years.
18. Casket Girls – True Love Kills the Fairytale
There is a segment of the pop music industry that puts nursery rhymes to music, with crap results. See also = Ke$ha. This is that, except on really good hallucinogens.
19. Crisis Arm – Rend
Deep, moody, textured, it takes more than one listen to fully draw you in, and doesn’t cut corners for easy accessbility. This is the kind of challenge we love.
20. Asalto Al Parque Zoológico – Hexadecimal
Strip away the artifice, get to the heart of the sound, and make it your own. A joy from start to finish.
DJ Ariel’s Picks:
1. Be Forest – Earthbeat
2. Field Mouse – Hold Still Life
3. Vibragun – Vibragun
4. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent
5. Seasurfer – Dive In
6. Aerofall – Aerofall
7. Spotlight Kid – Ten Thousand Hours
8. We Need Secrets – Melancholy and the Archive
9. The History of Apple Pie – Feel Something
10. Whirr – Sway
2014 Album of the Year Listener Poll results HERE.
The Shoegaze Capital of the World in 2014 goes to: Australia
Lowtide, Blush Response, Day Ravies, Roku Music and SO many others. It’s rather a victory that the home office of Sounds Better With Reverb has now become epicenter of the movement.
Australia takes over from Chicago 2013, which stole the crown from Japan in 2012.
Special Achievement Award in 2014 goes to Deepfieldview
An all star cast came together this year to complete the unfinished work of Danny Lackey, co-founder of When The Sun Hits blog, and a devoted fan and promoter of the scene. The resulting album is a labor of love that is instantly warm and engaging, transcending genre boundaries. It stands as a tribute to a man who, until his untimely passing, did everything he could to promote others. They’ve all returned the favor, in spades.
Album of the Year 2015
Who’s to know? Early favorites are Tamaryn (minus Rex John Shelverton, plus contributions from Weekend’s Shaun Durkan and others), Pinkshinyultrablast and No Joy. And while we’re hoping Rex John Shelverton signs a damn contract and puts out a Bellavista album, our money is on Fleeting Joys. Heard it here first.