Defending Shoegaze/Dreampop/Synthrock

I recently explored the growing world of streaming music and one thing that I found was that Pandora is the best at recommending new music. I pay for Spotify because I usually know what I want to hear, but when it comes to finding new artists, no one beats Pandora. Pandora’s music genome sounds a bit like a con until you compare it with similar recommendation features of competing streaming services. My beloved Spotify has an absolutely atrocious “radio” mode that winds up playing the same ten songs by roughly the same four to five artists. And usually these so-called recommendations are so oblivious that I’m rarely surprised by anything that gets played when I use this feature. I have access to a premium Pandora account where I work, and on Fridays when no one is around I like to pick an artist I’m currently grooving on and see what new stuff I can find.

Now I’ll freely admit that I’ve always been a sentimental fool. I like quiet, moody songs that are bittersweet. Dream pop. Chillwave. Shoegaze. Whatever you want to call it…I love this kind of music even though I don’t know much about this genre. One of my current favorites is the French pop singer Melody Prochet, who fronts the psychedelic dream pop band Melody’s Echo Chamber. I discovered Melody’s Echo Chamber via label mate Tame Impala, an Australian psychedelic band who kick all kinds of ass. Anyway, I took it upon myself to create a Pandora station based around Melody’s Echo Chamber. What happened? I fell down a rabbit hole of electronic-psychedelic-dream pop that melted my mind and made me fall in love.

One of the great things about myself, if I can take a moment to brag, is my ability to love a lot of different/conflicting things. Like, for example, I really love cock rock. Give me a hard-charging guitar riff and with some semi-sexist lyrics and I’m happy as a pig in shit. The more dunderheaded, the better. But I’m also a sensitive soul that likes to be lulled by a sweet melody and lush wall of quiet noise. This music that Pandora showed me was amazing in that it was both distorted and crystal clear. It was intimate and human, while at the same time adorned with the trappings of modern electronic music. This music was full of synthetic sounds and real emotion. It was like discovering a new color.

The branching spectrum of music Pandora showed me was absolutely breathtaking. It was like having a cool older brother with a kick ass record collection show me what’s what. I was certain that all the music I was hearing was brand new, but with a little research I found out that most of it was several years old. How on Earth had I missed the stunning pop of Hannah Georgas? Or the cool electro-funk of Walter Meego? What if I’d never decided to play around with Pandora and these amazing songs had remained unknown to me? This post is part advertisement for Pandora, which is an amazing service, but it’s also about stumbling out of one’s comfort zone. I love The Beatles, but you shouldn’t listen to them 100% of the time, this experience only reinforced that.

If you haven’t played around with Pandora in awhile go give it another shot. Let it show you things you didn’t even know you wanted to see. Or go visit a record shop and talk to that weird guy behind the counter. You know, the fat guy with Elvis sideburns who sweats all over you purchases and mumbles to himself. That guy knows stuff. Pick a genre you don’t normally listen to and give it shot. Or go on r/Music on Reddit and see what all the cool Internet kids are chatting about.

I feel like a kid on Christmas having discovered all these cool new bands! Here are a sampling of my favorites. If you have a chance, take a listen. And if you like this kind of music tell me about it in the comments. I want to find more of this mellow, dreamy, electronic music.

Currently in heavy rotation in my Shoegaze Playlist:

  1. You and I” by Washed Out. Washed Out famously provides the opening theme to Portlandia a hilarious sketch show on IFC. This song is hypnotic and mellow, I love it.

 

  1. “Happy Birthday Party” by Dom. This song totally feels like more upbeat, less drugged-out Animal Collective. This song should have been a monster hit with it’s rad hook and goofy-fun lyrics. It’s time to get gnarly, happy birthday party-party indeed…

  1. “Gasoline” by Alpine. A mix of dance and indie pop, Alpine are a really cool Australian band that have this weird knack for writing really fun songs that are catchy and fun as hell. These people should be household names.

  1. “Walk in the Park” by Beach Fossils. This is probably the only song on this list that I’d heard prior to falling into my shoegaze rabbit hole. This song is so ethereal and dark, but also really beautiful. I love this song.

  1. “Bullets” by Rebecca & Fiona. This is 100% pure dance music. Straight from Stockholm, Sweden, Rebecca & Fiona are these two really hot DJ’s who are making embarrassingly good dance music with sweet pop hooks. This song “Bullets” is rad and makes me want to dance. I never want to dance.

  1. “Standing on the Shore” by Empire of the Sun. I’ve been a fan of The Sleepy Jackson for many years but had no idea that Luke Steele was also the member of a synthpop band. Totally theatrical and totally glammed out, “Standing on the Shore” is a dreamy pop masterpiece. Weird? You bet. Over-the-top? Sure. Fun? You bet.

  1. “Robotic” by Hannah Georgas. This song is a real heartbreaker. There’s so much soul in her voice. This is one of those songs that feels old and worn in the first time you hear you it—like it’s been a part of your life this whole time. Sad and wistful hurts so good. I love it.

And in case you’re interested, here is my Shoegaze playlist on Spotify. There’s a ton more really cool songs and artists with more added every Friday:

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