you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

31 May 2011

Mini VJ Set: Amber Crain, co-creator of WTSH and shoegaze radio DJ, chooses her top 5 most influential shoegaze tracks.

Now realizing how hard this little musical exercise actually is (only FIVE tracks?!), I feel slightly bad that Danny and I asked everyone to do this! However, it does make one think very very hard about these choices, which is important, I think. Sure, we can all have a shoegaze soup of random awesomeness sloshing about in the back of our brains, but in my world, taking the ingredients out of the soup to see how they function in your memory, and as part of something much larger, is an exercise worth doing. With mine, I'm picking tracks that, when I first heard them, stopped me in my tracks and forced me to alter or update what my own personal definition of shoegaze was. So, in no particular order:

Cocteau Twins - The Spangle Maker

By the time I heard this song, I'd already heard Garlands and the track "Ice Pulse". "Ice Pulse" got me interested in the band (I was super into synths that year) and Garlands (which I adored) made me realize there is a LOT more to this band than I'd previously thought. I mean, to me, Garlands is a straight up goth record. That didn't really fit into my "Ice Pulse" definition of the Cocteau Twins, so I knew I was onto something. The very first Cocteau Twins record I ever bought on my own was The Spanglemaker 12". I had no idea what to expect. By 10 seconds in, I knew I was holding gold. I love the lyrics to this song - they're so visual and kind of ambiguous; they made my imagination run wild. And at 1:00 minute in, the first chorus, I nearly lost my mind. It was the singular most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. And at 3:38, when the song released the remainder of it's full power, well, there are no words. I'm still not altogether sure who or what a spangle maker is, but I'm always looking for my spangle maker.


The Jesus and Mary Chain - Something's Wrong

When you grow up in a small southern town and you aren't listening to Top 40, you're automatically ostracized as a weirdo. At 15, I went ahead and embraced that; something in my gut told me that if I could endure being a weirdo for just a little longer, I'd go on to meet other people like me, somewhere far away. The JAMC have so many important songs to me, but this may have been the very first track of theirs that I latched on to, during those solitary times. The song is so full of longing, confusion, loneliness and brokenhearted obsession, and it continues to ring true over and over again, more deeply every time. Later on in my twenties, perhaps my darkest days of all, I spent whole YEARS listening to this song every single day, multiple times, obsessing over it and someone I'd lost. "Cracked up years behind me, cracked up years ahead are all I see" resonated with me so fucking much. This song can make me cry.


Spacemen 3 - Losing Touch With My Mind

Incidentally, I heard this song around the time I started losing touch with my own mind, which was perfect. I had discovered drugs and was essentially re-defining my entire existence when this came along. Suddenly, shoegaze had another facet for me - fucking swagger, attitude, and psychedelia. This version of the song is particularly crazed - it has the power to make humans do very bad things. Depending on your definition of "bad", I suppose. Play this song in my presence, and I'll still probably do almost anything. Makes me feel all right.


The Telescopes - Sadness Pale

This was when I realized that shoegaze could be absolutely, gloriously sinister - in the best way possible. I adore almost everything this band has ever released, and if we're talking early tunes, I have a story for every single track. But I'm singling "Sadness Pale" out because it probably had the most effect on me (just BARELY edging ahead of "The Perfect Needle") the first time I heard it. Straight up noise and venom, and S. Lawrie's vocals on this are un-fucking-believable. The lyrics are mind-blowing too, all of them, but I had (have) a particular penchant for: "Are you floating in the madness as you step outside your mind? You can have your celebrations, no one cares until you die..."


Ceremony - Clouds

This is my only pick that isn't "classic shoegaze" - yet, anyway. I guess I heard this track in 2007, possibly late 2006? Pretty sure it was released in 2005? Things are blurring. At any rate, this song is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. I love Ceremony. I love everything they've done. But there is something about this one that just gets me in a way I can't even explain. Something about the soaring sounds, the vocal delivery, the melody, I don't know. The first time I heard this song, I felt like I'd heard the one song that was absolutely created for me. Obviously, it wasn't, but I just felt that close to it. I would live inside this song forever, if I could. This is a modern day "Plainsong" for me. It taps into THAT place. This song can also make me cry. "Come on, we're running out of time..."