Released: May 17, 1993
Maybe Brian Eno’s production has something to do with it, but this song is almost too joyful to be classified as shoegaze. Verging on dream pop, the track opens with loud and pulsing synthesizers, while a quick tempo will have you nodding along with lyrics you can’t quite make out. As the chorus builds up, the words are completely drowned out by a wobbling synth melody. The perfect song to make you forget the final you just flunked.
Artist: My Bloody Valentine
Released: November 4, 1991
No shoegaze list could be complete without a track from My Bloody Valentine’s masterpiece, Loveless. You may remember this nostalgic ballad from the soundtrack of Lost in Translation (2003), playing in the background as Scarlett Johansson observes the Tokyo night through a taxicab window. Buried beneath Kevin Shields’ trademark amplified open-string noise, a melodic keyboard hook rises steadily in pitch throughout the song, finally cresting above the static blare like a deep-sea fish coming up for air.
Cherry Coloured Funk
Artist: Cocteau Twins
Album: Heaven or Las Vegas
Released: September 17, 1990
The Cocteau Twins played an integral role in the development of the shoegaze genre, and the dreamy guitar on this track has influenced countless artists, from Slowdive to Lush. More recently, The Weeknd sampled it to exquisite effect on “The Knowing,” distilling a haunting one-string melody from the song’s hypnotic fuzz. Vocally, lead singer Elizabeth Frazer switches back and forth between a quiet monotone and a beautiful, lilting whine, eventually merging the two to create a catchy harmony that carries the song.
Released: October 15, 1990
This song walks the fine line between being sappy and lovely. Mark Gardener’s lyrics, echoey and melancholy under layers of effects, describe a love as fleeting as a vapour trail in the sky—here one day and gone the next. The song starts off with a faint distorted guitar jangle before the drums hit like a ton of bricks, and the volume is cranked up to appropriate shoegaze levels, completely blanketing the vocals. Technically brilliant, the bass drum is the most musical aspect of this track, driving relentlessly until the outro, where it abruptly gives way to fading orchestral strings.