Montreal-based shoegazers Bodywash — Chris Steward and Rosie Long Dector — can trace their origins back to when the pair met while attending McGill University. But when they met, the pair didn’t immediately share a common musical language: Steward grew up in London listening to celestial dream pop while Dector grew up in Toronto listening to folk and Canadiana. The music they began writing together saw the pair bridging their influences, and with the release of 2016’s self-titled EP and 2019’s full-length debut, Comforter Steward and Rector firmly establishing slow-burning and dreamy material centered around ethereal vocals, intricate guitar lines and pulsating synths.
When touring to support their full-length debut was cut short by the pandemic, Long Decter and Steward used the unexpected hiatus to write. And they wound up writing material that was darker, more experimental and more invigorating than the material on Comforter. Last year, they took the songs into the studio with longtime drummer Ryan White and The Besnard Lakes‘ Jace Lasek, who helped record and engineer the album, which will be released through Light Organ Records.
“Kind of Light,” the forthcoming album’s first single is an expansive track that begins with a slow-burning and elegiac intro featuring glistening organs and a skittering yet propulsive kick pattern that slowly builds up and breaks into a high energy, boom bap-like breakbeat paired with scorching guitar squealing and wobbling bass synths. Front and center is Long Decter’s ethereal and achingly plaintive vocals express profound, heart-wrenching despair, and hope. The song suggests that while loss is natural and expected, there can be hope; that there are only a handful of things that in our lives that are truly permanent — and that for the most part, it can get better.
“I wrote ‘Kind of Light’ in bed,” Long Decter says. ““It was the fall of 2018 and Chris and I were both going through experiences of learning not to trust what feels like home. He sent me a plugin for a new organ sound, suggesting it might provide inspiration. I sent him back chords, a kick pattern, and some vocals about trying to pull your legs back; trying to take your energy out of the wreckage and put it into yourself. The process of deciding what’s worth keeping, what can be reworked and what gets tossed in the fire. A process that is devastating and also weirdly invigorating, because you can see new possibilities opening up in front of you. And you can start to look for light somewhere else.”
Minneapolis-based dream pop/shoegaze outfit Lumari — twin siblings Dave West (drums) and Dan West (guitar, bass), Margo Pearson (vocals, keys) and Robert Caple (guitar, bass) — can trace their origins back to the relationship between the West Brothers: Dave West and Dan West have played together in a number of different national and internationally touring projects over the course of several decades.
As the story goes, the West Brothers had the fortune of finding Pearson and Caple, who gamely completed Lumari’s lineup. Along with award-winning producer/engineer Eric Olsen, the Minneapolis-based sheogazers wrote and recorded an album’s worth of material that sets the groundwork for the band’s sound and approach.
The quartet’s debut single, and presumably, their album’s first single, “Neon Mirror” is centered around reverb-drenched, swirling guitar textures, thunderous and propulsive drumming, a supple bass line and enormous choruses paired with Pearson’s ethereal vocals. Sonically. the song strikes me a slick synthesis of Meat is Murder-era The Smiths,Cocteau Twins, Slowdive and RIDE — with a modern production sheen.
Co-directed by Sara Fox and the members of Lumari, the accompanying video was shot in the Catskills and follows Leslie Cuyjet wandering through the hilly forests, when she discovers an ornate, old fashioned mirror in the moss. We see the woman twirling through the forest pathways with her mirror before shifting to an ornate house. In one way, the video can be red as a modern day extrapolation of the old Greek myth of Narcissus — but while going through a lysergic and nightmarish funhouse mirror.
Tom Doyle is a Dublin-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and creative mastermind behind the emerging Irish shoegaze recording project The Neon Sea. Recorded at The Open Studio, Doyle’s debut single as The Neon Sea, the Dave Flood-produced “As I Wonder” sees the Irish singer/songwriter and guitarist crafting a textured, swirling soundscape that seems simultaneously indebted to Cocteau Twins, RIDE, and A Storm in Heaven-era The Verve paired with Doyle’s ethereal falsetto.
“As I Wonder” features a narrator, grasping with life’s enormous and difficult questions — with the narrator humbly admitting that maybe some of those questions won’t have an answer.
The accompanying video for “As I Wonder” is indebted to 120 Minutes-era MTV as we see Doyle in a performing the song in a studio with flashing, neon-colored strobes — and shot through a mind-bending array of mirrors and filters.
Hong Kong-based shoegazers outfit JOVM mainstays Lucid Express — Kim (vocals, synths), Andy (guitar), Sky (guitar), and siblings Samuel (bass) and Wai (drums) — can trace their origins back to 2014: the then-teenagers started the band, initially known as Thud, in the turbulent weeks before the Umbrella Movement, the most recent in a series of tense pro-democracy protests against the increasingly brutal state-led suppression in the region. Amidst the constant scenery of tear-gassed, bloodied and beaten protestors, politically-targeted arrests and death threats from government officials, the five Hong Kong-based musicians met in a small practice space in the remote, industrial Kwai Hing neighborhood.
Despite the ugliness of their sociopolitical moment, the Hong Kong-based outfit manages to specialize in an ethereal and shimmering blend of indie pop, dream pop and shoegaze with their practice space being someplace where they could escape their world. “At that time, it felt like we have [sic] a need to hold on to something more beautiful than before. Like close friendships, the band, our creation,” the band’s Kim says in press notes.
The band’s current name can be seen as a relatively modest mission statement describing the band’s intent: their use of the word lucid is in the poetic sense of something bright and radiant. Essentially, Lucid Express operates as the service to take the listener on a journey through their lush, dreamy and blissful sound. Interestingly, their material often manages to evoke the mood of its inception: with the band’s members working late-night shifts, their rehearsal and recording schedules found the band playing, writing and recording material between midnight and 4:00AM — and then crashing for a few hours in the studio, before heading back to their jobs.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year or so, you might recall that the Hong Kong shoegazers released their 10-song, self-titled, full-length debut last year. The album’s material thematically touched upon being young, being in love and maneuvering through heartache in difficult and desperate times.
In the lead-up to the self-titled debut’s release, I wound up writing about four of the album’s singles:
“Wellwave,” a sculptured and lush soundscape centered around Kim’s ethereal vocals, glistening synths, skittering four-on-the-floor and a motorik groove — with the end result being a song that reminded me quite a bit of Lightfoils, Palm Haze and Cocteau Twins but while feeling like a lucid fever dream.
“Hollowers” the only collaborative track on the album as it features The Bilinda Butchers‘ Adam Honingford, who contributes his baritone to the song’s chorus. Interestingly, the track found the Hong Kong-based outfit pushing their sound towards its darkest corners. While prominently featuring shimmering synth arpeggios and shimmering guitars, the song’s emotional heftiness comes from its stormy, feedback driven chorus.
“Hotel 65” a song that alternates between shimmering and ethereal verses and anthemic choruses featuring thunderous drumming and feedback drenched power chords. And while evoking a brewing storm on the horizon, the song lyrically name drops the guesthouse where Lucid Express’ frontperson Kim Ho stayed in while visiting the UK — and speaks of a relationship that should have never happened between two strangers, who both know that their time together will only be brief moment.
“North Acton,” the album’s opening track and fifth single, which continued a run of lush, sculptured and painterly soundscapes but paired with a propulsive and energetic four-on-the-floor. And while seemingly nodding at 4AD Records beloved heyday, “North Acton” serves as the perfect introduction to the band and their sound while arguably being one of the album’s most upbeat and hopeful singles.
Several years before, their full-length debut, the Hong Kong-based JOVM mainstays, then-known as Thud released an EP, 2015’s Floret. The EP made an instant splash among local music lovers — and in a short period of time, they landed coverage from the likes of international publications like Time Out and NME. As a result of a growing national and international profile, the JOVM mainstays opened for the likes of Nothing, The Cribs, and Beach Fossils.
Floret was the first bit of original material that the JOVM mainstays wrote during a period that was understandably turbulent, both personally and politically. Surrounded by increasing politically-fueled violence and threats, an oppressive and weighty depression spread to the music scene. And with shows being canceled and releases stalled, Floret EP quietly slipped offline.
For the first time in years, Floret EP is set to return. Pressed onto vinyl for the first time, the EP’s material is fully remastered, repackaged with new artwork and expanded with remixes from some of the band’s favorite artists. The remixes bring an international flair to an EP originally tracked in Hong Kong with remixes of from Austin-based Ringo Deathstarr frontman Elliott Frazer, New York-based Orchin, Tokyo‘s For Tracy Hyde, Bavaria’s The B.V.’s and London-based Yuck‘s Max Bloom.
The expanded and reissued EP’s first single, EP opener “Lime” is a lush and dreamy bit of shoegaze featuring reverb-drenched guitar jangle, glistening, ambient synth arpeggios, and a motorik groove paired with ethereal vocals and an expansive, hook-driven song structure. Sonically, “Lime” may remind some listeners of Slowdive‘s 2018 self-titled album meeting Lightfoils’ 2014 effort Hierarchy — with the end result being a song with a gorgeous yet vulnerable song with enormous hooks.
Ringo Deathstarr’s Elliot Frazier’s remix of “Lime” removes the ambient guitar textures and gives the song a gritty feel by dialing up the bass into an insistent, warm crunch. The end result leaves Kim’s vocals exposed in the vocals, giving the song a visceral vulnerability, just as the song’s explosive choruses come.
The JOVM mainstays will be embarking on a lengthy Stateside tour — with most of the dates, opening for fellow JOVM mainstays Blushing. The tour includes an October 21, 2022 stop at Berlin Under A. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
10/21 | NYC, NY @ Berlin Under A 10/22 | Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie 10/23 | Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig 10/24 | Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle 10/25 | Memphis, TN @ Growlers 10/26 | TBA 10/27 | TBA 10/28 | San Antonio @ TBA 10/30 | Austin, TX @ LEVITATION (Empire) 10/31 | El Paso, TX @ MONA 11/1 | Phoenix, AZ @ Linger Longer 11/2 | Los Angeles, CA @ Resident
Deriving their name from Besnard Lake, which is about 230 miles north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the acclaimed, multi-Polaris Music Prize-nominated, Montreal-based shoegazer outfit The Besnard Lakes — currently, husband and wife duo Jace Lasek (vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keys) and Olga Goreas (vocals, bass), along with Kevin Laing (drums), Richard White (guitar), Sheenah Ko (keys) and Robbie MacArthur (guitar) — formed back in 2003. And since their formation, the Canadian shoegazers have released six albums of expansive, atmospheric and textured shoegaze that has been described as magisterial and cinematic by critics.
2016’s A Coliseum Complex Museum saw the Montreal-based outfit saw the band attempting to craft shorter, less sprawling songs. But after the album’s release, The Besnard Lakes and their longtime label home Jagjaguwar decided to mutually go their separate ways. With that decision, the Canadian shoegazers faced several career and life-altering questions: Did it make sense to even continue the band? What use is a band with an instinct for crafting expansive songs that balanced muscular heft and ethereal grave that often clocked in at five, 10 or even 18 minutes long? How can they sell that in the age of short attention spans and streaming? Can it even be relevant?
After a period of contemplation, the band came to the realization that it didn’t fucking matter. So, fueled by their love for each other, and for creating and playing music together, the members of The Besnard Lakes found themselves creating what may arguably be their most uncompromising album to date, last year’s The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings.
Unlike their previous five albums, the Canadian shoegazer outfit eschewed their long-held two or three year record release cycle, and went with a much more patient creative approach in which they took all the time they needed to conceive, write, record and mix the album’s material. Some of the album’s songs are old and can trace their origins back to resurrected demos that the band had left on the shelf to be worked on, several years before The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings sessions. Other songs were woodshedded in the cabin behind Laske’s and Goreas’ Riguard Ranch with the band relishing a rougher, grittier sound.
Thematically, the Montreal-based band’s sixth album found the band contemplating the darkness of dying, the light on the other side — and coming back from the brink of annihilation. While in many ways touching about the band’s own story, the album is also a remembrance of dear loved ones, who are no longer with us — in particular, Lasek’s father who died in 2020.
From Lasek’s observations of his father’s death, being on one’s deathbed may be the most intense and unshakable psychedelic trip of anyone’s life: at one point, Lasek’s father surfaced from a morphine-induced dream, talking about how he saw a “window” on his blanket with a “carpenter inside of it, making objects.” These observations helped to imbue the material with a fever dream-like quality.
The acclaimed Montreal shoegazers start off 2022 with “She’s an Icicle,” an outtake from The Besnard Lakes Are The Last Great Thunderstorm Warnings sessions. Clocking in at a little over six-and-half minutes, and having gone through a process of editing and reworking, the expansive “She’s an Icicle” is centered around three distinct sections:
a gentle and dreamy introduction featuring shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars
a driving middle section featuring distortion and reverb-drenched guitars, a chugging and propulsive bass line, glistening bursts of synths and four-on-the-four-like drumming
a dreamy and contemplative coda that repeats the motif started in the introductory section — but with fluttering feedback, forceful drumming and glistening synth bursts before fading out
Each of those three sections are held together by Jace Lasek’s achingly plaintive falsetto and some gorgeous harmonizing. And while being an ode to a lost love, “She’s an Icicle” the continues a remarkable run of expansive and exploratory material centered around gorgeous melodies and earnest lyricism.
Since their formation back in 2016, JOVM mainstays No Swoon — Tasha Abbott (vocals, guitar) and Zack Nestel-Patt (synths, baas) — have developed an established sound that sees the pair meshing elements of dream pop, shoegaze, post-punk and ethereal wave through two releases, 2018’s EP 1 and 2019’s ’s Jorge Elbrecht-produced, self-titled full-length debut.
Much like countless others across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic, threw the the lives and plans of the JOVM mainstays into disarray: their planned tour to support their full-length debut had to be scrapped entirely. After spending the past five years in Brooklyn, the duo relocated to Los Angeles. And understandably, spending over a year in quarantine-imposed isolation forced the pair to step back and think about their lives in new ways — and to examine the intricacies of going through life as we know it.
During the pandemic, the duo released a couple of singles during the pandemic: The Siamese Dream era Smashing Pumpkins meets Slowdive like Again,” a single that marked massive, life-altering transitions for the duo: their aforementioned return back West paired with a reworked sound and approach.
As the JOVM mainstays explained in press notes, “This song is about when days begin and end with no real definition. About being stuck in the loop of our life and we can’t get out. It may come to no surprise that this song was written early on in the Pandemic. Before everything shut down, I (Tasha) was constantly moving: work, music, sleep, etc., and being at stand-still all of a sudden was definitely strange (on top of the already terror and stress of the pandemic).”
“Again” will appear on the band’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Take Your Time. Slated for a Friday release, the lion share of Take Your Time was recorded by the band in Western Massachusetts, amidst the isolation of pandemic related quarantine — with the band’s Nestel-Patt taking up engineering duties during the initial recording sessions. The album features guest spots from longtime collaborator Jon Smith (drums), along with Furrows‘ and Olden Yolk’s Peter Wagner (guitar). Jake Aaron contributed some additional production and Chris Coady mixed the album, pushing the material into something otherworldly.
Take Your Time‘s material was conceived and written during both personal and global transitions and turmoil — but while celebrating a joyful acceptance of the paths that have lead each of us to where we are right now. About the album’s themes, No Swoon’s Abbott contends, “We are so hard on ourselves for decisions we made years ago. I have plenty of regrets, but I also see it as a process, and it’s ok that I didn’t realize the hopes and dreams of 20-year old me. What did she know anyways?”
In the lead up to the album’s release, I’ve written about two more singles:
“Besides,” Take Your Time‘s first official single that sonically nods a bit at JOVM mainstays Beach House, but was inspired by a wild, enigmatic dream the band’s Tasha Abbott once had in which, while exploring a mysterious cavern, she stumbled upon a secret and apparently blissful cult with ambiguous intentions.
“I have some really weird dreams,” Abbott said in press notes. “They are often these wide-ranging sci-fi stories. This song is part 2 of the same dream that inspired a song on our first record ‘Don’t wake up, wake up‘. That dream had ended with meandering into a cave that turned out to be the home to a cult where everyone looked the same and seemed very ‘happy.’ Though, obviously they were not very happy because it was a cult. I eventually got out.”
“Wait to See,” a simultaneously brushing and dreamily introspective song centered around a maelstrom of synths, driving percussion and blown out bass paired with Abbott’s ethereal vocals that Abbott explains is about growing up and getting older.
“We’re talking to our younger selves who had very specific dreams and ideas of how our lives would pan out. But as we all know, the hopes and dreams we had at 15 are usually not our realities when we grow up.. We could look back and be upset that we didn’t become who we had hoped to be, or we could relish the new ideas and new dreams, and be ok with where we are. This song is about how looking back now, you can see the path that led to where we are now and how we wish we could tell our younger selves to be kind to who we will grow up to be.”
“Spare the Time,” Take Your Time‘s final single is a slow-burning and wistful track centered around buzzing guitars, fluttering synths paired with Abbott’s plaintive vocals begging and invoking a creative muse to inhabit her — if only for a brief period of time. “Spare the Time” will feel familiar to those, who have suffered through writer’s block, and have a deadline to complete something.