Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pitchfork's 50 Best Shoegaze Albums of All Time

The most surprising thing about this list is that it took them so long to finally run it.  Although it's a good idea on paper (scratch that -- a great idea considering the tastes of the contributors Pitchfork has at its disposal) the reality is that it's exceedingly hard to come up with fifty original pieces of writing about bands faithfully copying the sound of maybe three other bands.  There are only so many adjectives about shoegaze to go around, and we've heard them all countless times because the vocabulary hasn't changed in twenty five years.  Comparing the subtle differences between UK and US bands is a trope that works in a single album review, but wears thin after repeated mentions.  Sure, US bands were influenced a bit more by grunge and lo-fi indie rock like Pavement.  That's neither surprising or all that interesting, to be honest.

I appreciate the attempts to solidify the place of shoegaze hybrids in the canon (e.g. techno shoegaze such as Seefeel and Ullrich Schnauss, or metal shoegaze such as Jesu and Alcest).  But elsewhere, a number of albums on the very fringes of what can be considered shoegaze, great as they are, really don't belong ("A Storm in Heaven", "Pygmalion", "Chrome").  And in the end, six of the top seven albums are by the predictably entrenched threesome of early 90's UK shoegaze.  There's something very disenchanting about trudging through a list that ostensibly gives shoutouts to a handful of more recent albums, but saves the top spots for the real stars of the genre, all of whom made their best music more than two decades ago.  It's not any different than every "best of" list I saw as a teenager, with the same Stones/Beatles/Zep songs/albums at the top each time, "confirming" the notion that the music I listened to sucked because clearly all the best music had been made before I was born.  I'm not saying that you need to make wild picks for your top 10 just to be contrarian, but predictable lists don't always make for interesting ones.

I think my favourite part was the intro written by Sonic Boom -- indeed, as he wrote in his piece, that is not something I expected to see, and he offered a welcome viewpoint from the perspective of a pioneer/outsider.    

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