The recent piece on the new wave of American shoegaze in Stereogum is nothing if not exhaustive. Spanning obscure sub-genres and scenes, it shines a light on some of the mostly heavier U.S. based bands carrying on the tradition of outfits like Catherine Wheel and Ringo Deathstarr. The piece demanded a desire to dig deep and attention span to match that ambition. I spent some time this week going through the bands. It was not time wasted. Though I didn’t come out of the exercise with a lot of new favorite music, I did benefit from hearing how the upcoming crop of bands was bending old sounds.
I was unaware of the existence of Blue Smiley, considered a seminal Philly based shoegaze band that inspired a number of the new scene’s players. I’ve enjoyed listening to the limited material by the band, whose frontman, Brian Nowell, died in 2017 at the tender age of 26. It’s got a watery, lo-fi charm that almost contrasts with the methodical understanding of song dynamics. It’s not hard to imagine what they band could have been with a few more years under their belt.
A more current band to watch is Knifeplay, which has been around since the demise of Blue Smiley, but is just now coming to my attention as they release a new double-LP entitled Animal Drowning. Their expansive sound encapsulates the best ethereal fuzziness of Starflyer 59’s Gold and mixes it with some of the melody and scope of Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream. The result sounds like something that could have been produced by Alan Moulder in the mid-90s. A standout track is “Lonely Sun.” It’s all carefully controlled chaos until the end, where the decomposition brings to mind the dramatic dénouements of the songs off Sonic Youth’s Goo.
I’ll be devoting more time to digging into Animal Drowning in the upcoming weeks to see if I’m ready for another record in my growing-too-big for its storage record collection. Buying new vinyl is the highest compliment I can pay to any band at this point.
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