TOP 25 SHOEGAZE/DREAMPOP ALBUMS OF 2017
It’s safe to say that 2017 was an epic year for Shoegaze and Dreampop. Going back and listening through the mass of albums was both a pleasure and incredibly daunting. There was just so much great music released in the genres this year that a list really doesn’t do that mass of great music real justice. Well, this list of 25 were on the top for a number of reasons. Airiel, however, just blew us away around these parts and the rest followed. We hope you enjoy the list and, please, support all the artists by buying their music.
1. Airiel: Molten Young Lovers (Shelflife Records, 2017)
From the opener “This is Permanent”, all the way to the final track of Molten Young Lovers, Jeremy Wrenn and company have crafted what is undoubtedly a masterpiece of an album. Highly anticipated and sitting in limbo for a very long time, this album was worth the wait on so many levels. Powerfully emotive and personal in places, Molten Young Lovers is a music lover’s dream with sonically deep layers and beautifully crafted songs. In an incredible year for shoegaze and dreampop, Molten Young Lovers easily came in as top album here at Somewherecold.
2. Electro Group: Ranger (Research Sound Recordings/Pehr Records, 2017)
An oft sadly overlooked band, Electro Group came back this year with an incredible full-length album in Ranger. Only their third full-length since 2003’s A New Pacifica, Ranger deserves the mass’ attention. Given their minimal output over the years, it’s always amazing to hear what this band produces when it finally out into the world. There are eleven tracks here and each one is a gem. There is no filler. Few bands can put 11 tracks on an LP and not have the quality dip at some points. Nope. Not Electro Group! Ranger is so good and I highly recommend everyone pick up a copy!
3. Slowdive: Slowdive (Dead Oceans, 2017)
Well, what can be said about the return of Slowdive. New records for bands after long ago break-ups can be fraught with the baggage of the past from fans and have the possibility of sounding nothing like the band itself. I mean, the members have grown-up, moved on, had life experiences, and a number of things between their last outing and their current release, Well, Slowdive blew all expectations out of the water. Their self-titled release and the ensuing mass of tour dates have been an unequivocal success and, after months of listening, the self-titled now lives as a central album in the Slowdive canon. Brilliant, pensive, sonically gorgeous, and just plane incredible, Slowdive is more than deserving a place in the top slots of so many lists this year!
4. Blankenberge: Radiogaze (Self Release, 2017)
I’m not sure what is going on in Russia but, in terms of shoegaze, it’s a very, very good thing. Blankenberge burst on the scene with the release of their debut album Radiogaze in June. Dreamy, ethereal, and powerful, the album bursts into your speakers with layered, reverbed drenched guitars that just hypnotize. Not afraid to play with sonics and blast those soaring fuzzy edges skyward, Blankenberge have impressed with this first outing and I cannot wait for more!
5. Panda Riot: Infinity Maps (Self Release, 2017)
Chicago veteran dreampop stylists Panda Riot released their third full-length this year and it is dreamy and gorgeous from start to finish. Flowing from ambient moments into catchy, breathy pop structured dreampop gems, Infinity Maps is a must have for any dreampop fan! If there is any wonder at how talented this band is, pick up their Part Time Punks Sessions mini-cd and you will hear that, live, they are as brilliant as they are in a recording studio. From the thematic “Aphelion” to the moving yet addictive “Night Animation”,
6. Deafcult: Auras (Hobbledehoy, 2017)
Hailing from down under, Deafcult released their sophomore album Auras back in June. It’s a gloriously melodic effort with ethereal guitars ghostly floating through aural dreamscapes. If the world were a more just place, songs like “Secret Wisdom” and “Rubix” would have screamed up the charts creating a blistering rise to fame for the band. Soaring, almost choir like moments, dot this aural landscape and all should be listening.
7. Dead Leaf Echo: Beyond.Desire (Moon Sounds Records, 2017)
It’s no secret that we here at Somewherecold have a special place for Dead Leaf Echo in our fandom. The long awaited second full-length, Beyond.Desire, was released in October and it does not disappoint. Revelatory in its passion, the album is a goth-post-punk shoegaze dream. There is an undergirding feel that evokes the likes of 4AD artists in the label’s heyday. The albums begins with a musical theme that snakes its way through the album until its very end and this connective tissue ties the album together brilliantly.
8. Pia Fraus: Field Ceremony (Seksound, 2017)
After almost a decade away, Pia Fraus returned with a new full-length album in Field Ceremony. For Somewherecold, this was almost as eventful as the return of Slowdive. If you are unaware of the place Pia Fraus has in dreampop history, please go read all the retrospectives here on the site. Their return sees them in fine form, taking up the mantle of dreampop masters once again as if they had never missed a beat. Their signature swirling guitars and beautifully crafted vocals appear once again both to evoke a nostalgia as well as show that the band has made beautiful progress in their art.
9. Yumi Zouma: Willowbank (Cascine, 2017)
Yumi Zouma is a group of wunderkinds from New Zealand who craft the most infectious pop songs I’ve heard in recent memory. Breathy vocals that evoke early girl groups from the 50’s and 60’s infused with dreampop and disco make for an addictive combination in Yumi Zouma’s very capable hands. From the incredible opener “Depths (Part 1)” to addictive moments like “A Memory” and “December”, Willowbank is certainly an incredible edition to the Yumi Zouma catalog and proves that they are the real deal after their former debut output!
10. Whimsical: Sleep to Dream (Saint Marie Records, 2017)
Whimsical released their first album in the year 2000. It was thought that their sophomore effort, partially recorded in the early 2000’s, would never see the light of day. Well, in the early part of 2017, Sleep to Dream was released. It’s an album that straddles the lines between dreampop and shoegaze as it drifts between ethereal guitars and poppy song writing. Vanderwoude’s incredible vocals really seal the deal here with her very personal lyrics about love and relationships. If you haven’t picked this gem up yet, do so immediately.
11. Star Tropics: Lost World (Shelflife Records, 2017)
There must be something special in the air or water in Chicago. Star Tropics, our third band (technically fourth if we count Whimsical) from that windy city, wowed with the release of Lost World. Songs with perfect pop structures, addictive guitar hooks enveloped in bright, shiny tones, and gorgeous breathy vocals, Lost World is a dreampop gem and has earned a rightful place in this best of 2017 list.
12. Wozniak: Courage Reels (Morningside Young Team Records, 2017)
Upon hearing one of the early tracks of this album before releasing it, Wozniak instantly peaked my interest. Courage Reels is an incredible debut with massive guitar walls and huge textural moments. Forceful and powerful, Courage Reels is one of those albums you pop in the player and go on a long, fast drive with as you roll down the windows and turn the volume as high as possible. This album is an adrenaline rush from the very first note and it never really lets up except for occasional breather moments.
13. You’ll Never Get to Heaven: Images (Self Release, 2017)
You’ll Never Get to Heaven’s Images has been on constant rotation in the Somewherecold studios. Ghostly vocals and subtle, shimmering tones ring out at the very beginning of this album with “Shared Dreams”. This beginning is a lure that hooks the listener into the ever-evolving and hypnotic world of You’ll Never Get to Heaven. Laden with synths and bolstered with great songwriting, Images stands out in a massive pile of music from 2017.
14. Infinity Girl: Somewhere Nice, Someday (Disposable America, 2017)
I got a hold of 2015’s Harm just this last year and found a new band that I loved. Unfortunately, Somewhere Nice, Someday turned out to be Infinity Girl’s swan song. Announcing this as their last album, they are leaving the scene on an incredibly high note. Let’s just say it out loud: the band pulled a Seinfeld, if you know what I mean. The tracks all come across as tenderly cared for and have this feeling of deep, careful songcraft. Each tone, each note, rings out beautifully as they play off one another in their sonic conversations.
15. Fazerdaze: Morningside (Groenland Records, 2017)
Hailing from New Zealand, Fazerdaze released their first brilliant full-length this year. An EP appeared in 2014, then a single in 2015, and then silence until singles from Morningside appeared this year. Infectious in its pop sensibilities, Morningside’s guitar tones glisten through the speakers at times and others growl. It is a brilliant forward looking album mixed with the wonderful pop nostalgia of the past.
16. Life on Venus: Encounters (Shelflife Records, 2017)
Hailing from Moscow, Life on Venus released their debut Encounters which is a gloriously classic shoegaze affair. Guitar walls swirl around deeply embedded ethereal vocals. But don’t let the classic sound fool you in any way. This isn’t derivative. It’s explosive and the songs are beautiful scaffolds of sonic brilliance.
17. Seasurfer: Under the Milkyway… Who Cares? (Saint Marie Records, 2017)
Seasurfer’s Under the Milkyway… Who Cares? Came out in March and it is a sonic dream. The tracts are lofty, ethereal, aggressive, dense, minimal, and emotive. It’s everything a shoegaze fan could ever want in an album. It’s as if Cocteau Twins and Joy Division had a sonic child, with all the angst and aggression mixed with lucid, warbling dreams.
18. The Stargazer Lilies: Lost (Graveface Records, 2017)
Stalwarts of the shoegaze scene, The Stargazer Lilies return with Lost. This psychedelia drenched shoegaze album is the thing of off-kilter, weed induced moments. There is a ghostly feel to this album, drenched in a Twin Peaks vibe. Going from swirling, hypnotic guitars to subtle, stripped down strumming, there is a wonderful variety here that always feels coherent.
19. She Sir: Rival Island (Shelflife Records, 2017)
She Sir is a favorite band here at Somewherecold but they have a very slow output. It was wonderful to see their newest, Rival Island, come out this past year. Having bought their first album when it was released in 2006, I’ve always been elated when something they do finally is birthed. Dreamy, subtle, stripped down, and full of memorable dreampop moments, Rival Island is a must have for dreampop fans.
20. Secret Shine: There is Only Now (Saint Marie Records, 2017)
Another album that came out from a band long silent minus some small releases was Secret Shine’s There is Only Now. This is a brilliant set of tracks from the veteran shoegazers. It’s one of the deep listen albums that writing about made so much richer. In our estimation, There is Only Now is not only a great record, it’s the best thing the band has done to date! I hope their next one isn’t seven years in the making like this one was.
21. Foliage: Silence (Self Release, 2017)
Hunkered down in the high deserts of Southern California, Manuel Joseph Walker casts his musical magic in his DIY projected called Foliage. Short, pithy tracks that have infectious hooks and reverb touched vocals, there is a sullen yet bright feel to Walker’s music. From the glistening groove of “Dare” to the head bobbing “Just Let Me Go’, Foliage’s sophomore effort definitely impresses!
22. Palm Haze: Tangy Dream (Self Release, 2017)
Meshing a post-punk, rock sensibility with shoegaze guitar walls, Palm Haze crafts songs that move from subtle, quieter moments to soaring walls of sound. Their understated moments are breathtaking and sometimes move into an almost ambient territory while their Jesus and the Mary Chain infused tracks have all the fuzzy edges a fan would love.
23. Subsonic Eye: Strawberry Feels (Self Release, 2017)
Now Subsonic Eye may be off most people’s radars, but this band should not be. Hailing from Singapore, Strawberry Feels casts a spell on the listener from the ambient notes of the opening track “Intro”. This spell lasts till the last note, as tracks like “Cosmic Realignment” hook you while Wahidah’s vocals are deep and abiding. There’s a maturity to this debut and I can’t wait to see what the band does next.
24. Trementina: 810 (Burger Records, 2017)
The third album from Santiago de Chile’s Trementina, 810 is a welcome edition to their discography. With vocal styles that communicate an innocence, Vanessa sings over rivers of guitars that meld and move throughout the tracks. Further the band doesn’t shirk using a number of experimental sounds as they craft their sonic landscapes.
25. Tashaki Miyaki: The Dream (Metropolis Records/Burger Records, 2017)
The Dream was a much-anticipated album for me and it turned out to be rightly so. Powerful and evocative, Tashaki Miyaki channel their Southern California roots with a Beach Boy-esque pop sensibility but not in its full brightness. There is a dirtying up here. It’s down to earth while at the same climbing to heights of poppy goodness. Little moments of detuned notes or small, brief melodic structures make the music more besmirched and full of a different, brilliant character.
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