“Shoegaze” was the genre of a group of late ‘80s and early ‘90s bands primarily from the U.K. who shared a common musical esthetic. Part Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” and part Britpop, the sound was distinguished by its use of layers of effects. The name “shoegaze” came from the observation that bands like My Bloody Valentine, Lush and Chapterhouse during performances seemed focused at the floor where the guitar effects pedals were.
The genre, by and large, ended by the late ‘90s but is enjoying a kind of resurgence as bands like quartet Mirror Coat, formerly of Iowa City, deliver this sound to new ears. Since they relocated to Chicago in 2013, the group has put out a split cassette release with fellow Chicago band Bow & Spear as well as an EP.
In February, Mirror Coat released a three-track single for Whispers, available for download from their Bandcamp page. These songs show a refining of the dreamy, shimmering pop they established with their previous releases. The vocals and melodies of the songs have taken on more of an emotional reach and resemble the style of a young Brian Wilson.
The production and performance balance instruments, vocals and layer effects to achieve a delicious headphone-filling depth. Bass player Scott Hanson in an email said, “Our engineer John Acarregui did a great job getting a pretty high-end sound, even though it was very much a DIY sort of situation at our place in Chicago.”
Indeed, even though it’s been almost 20 years since the heyday of shoegaze rock, these three tracks take me back to the days when I listened to just about every band that claimed the genre. I had pretty much put the shoegaze sound behind me, but I’m glad it’s back in the capable hands of bands like Mirror Coat.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 175