Earlier this year, we here at Drowned In Sound put together a mixtape highlighting some of the finest underground sounds from one of the most maligned genres ever to grace the musical spectrum. Call it shoegaze, psychedelic rock, noise, or psyche, as East London's current fascination with all things feedback-orientated with the occasional sixties throwback can testify.
What is for certain is that in an era where guitar music is supposedly struggling for survival, the dream pop/noise rock scene is as vibrant as ever. Labels like Club AC30, Sonic Cathedral and Northern Star on this side of the Atlantic continue to thrive, having all released some of 2012's most defining records. Look further afield and you'll find the likes of Slumberland, Captured Tracks, Saint Marie and Fuzz Club flying the flag Stateside. Then there's the growing number of blogs specifically dedicated to the many sub-genres intertwined within its make-up (Shoegazer Alive, When The Sun Hits and Dean Bromley's excellent Shoegaze & Dreampop News Daily we're looking at you). Add the increasingly popular Austin Psych Fest - which has just announced its first names for next April's event, Liverpool's International Festival of Psychedelia and the [Northern Star Records weekender held at Brixton's Windmill in March and it's clear for all to see this is a genre that won't be going away any time soon.
Oh, and of course there's also the small matter of a certain band playing their first shows in three years and on the verge of releasing their first new material in nearly twenty.
Looking back over the past year, it's been an incredible twelve months of music and here are forty reasons why pedal boards, tremelos and echo chambers rule.
1. Beautiful Noise
Filmed over the course of eight years by Eric Green and Sarah Ogletree, Beautiful Noise is a documentary celebrating the shoegaze movement of the early 1990s and beyond. Featuring over fifty interviews with many of the scene's leading lights including My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields, Jim Reid of the Jesus & Mary Chain and Primal Scream front man Bobby Gillespie, it's a fascinating and possibly definitive insight into the genre and the artists responsible. Along with the aforementioned interviews, there's also rarely seen live footage from the likes of Sigur Ros, M83 and A Place To Bury Strangers. The only downside is that its creators need to raise $75,000 in order to pay for licensing and finishing costs as well as being able to submit the finished product to numerous film festivals. With the pledge set to end on Saturday 15th December, the makers were still nearly $8,000 short of their proposed target at the time of publishing. Here's the trailer for the film. Fingers crossed Green and Ogletree reach their target...
2. Sin & Lostness
When The Lost Rivers dropped their first full-length long player Sin & Lostness in March few could have expected the impact it would have. Largely ignored by publications more concerned with finding the next
3. The Megaphonic Thrift
When Norwegian four-piece came over to the UK in March their live show demonstrated why we've been hyping them up as one of the most exciting bands around for some time. Second album The Megaphonic Thrift once again seemed to pass by almost unnoticed in many quarters. Thankfully not here. With talk of a return to the UK next year, we're literally clasping the edge of our seats in anticipation. This is recent single 'Broken Glass/Yellow Fingers'.
4. You Walk Through Walls
Remember Air Formation? You should, you really should. They were responsible for such glorious soundscapes as this before calling it a day some eighteen months ago. Now, former vocalist, guitar player and songwriter Matt Bartram and drummer James Harrison are back with a new project entitled You Walk Through Walls. Their first EP Destroyed Places came out last month on Club AC30. Here's 'Not Like You At All' from the EP.
One of the most potent live bands currently gracing the UK circuit are Doncaster duo 93MillionMilesFromTheSun. Their recent hometown show with former Creation Records legends The Telescopes was one of this year's finest. In fact, we enjoyed them so much we decided to do the decent thing and book them for a show ourselves! Third long player Towards The Light came out in October on In At The Eye Records and is a must-own collection of sprawling gems in the vein of Can and Slowdive. This is 'I Lost You', the lead single off the record.
6. Beach Fossils
OK, so some may argue that Dustin Payseur's one-man studio project-cum-four piece live band isn't shoegaze or psychedelic rock in the strictest sense of the word. Nevertheless, few can dispute the influence of bands like The Cure, Ride and My Bloody Valentine in his music, and having unleashed the excellent self-titled debut long player in 2010, he's finally completed the follow-up, Clash The Truth, which is due out in February of next year on Captured Tracks. One of the tracks off the album, 'Careless', was recently made available as a free download here...
Nashville's Hammock should need little to no introduction to regular visitors of Drowned In Sound. Third long player Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow was one of our favourite records from 2008, its understated ambience and discordant drones drawing comparisons with the likes of Sigur Ros. This year saw them release their fifth album, the delightfully melancholic Departure Songs. Here's the atmospheric 'We Could Die Chasing This Feeling'.
8. The Soft Moon
We're also quite partial to The Soft Moon. Their self-titled debut two years ago mixed catastrophic doom-rock with a dancefloor panache straight out of the Batcave circa 1982. Live they're an even more menacing force, while this year's follow-up Zeros confirmed The Soft Moon's status as the undisputed kings of darkwave. This is the video for 'Machines', taken from Zeros earlier this year.
There's nothing better than a glowing recommendation from someone whose opinion is tried and trusted. That's exactly what happened here, as Club AC30's Robin Allport spent several weeks earlier in the year raving about Gothenberg five-piece Westkust. Having listened to their Junk EP intently from here on in after, I can now wholeheartedly confirm their jangly, melodic fuzz-pop was worth shouting about after all. Here's 'Touch' from the aforementioned EP.
10. The Domino State
It's been a quiet year for The Domino State barring a couple of London shows at the beginning of the year. We're delighted to announce then that their second long player is just about ready to go and should be out in the early part of 2013. Here's a taster from the as-yet untitled album, the brooding 'Your Love'.
11. Melody's Echo Chamber
This time last year Melody Prochet was virtually unknown outside of her native Paris. Now, having created one of 2012's most stunning debuts with the assistance of Tame Impala's Kevin Parker, it's fair to say future expectations are extremely high for Melody's Echo Chamber. Although still relatively green as far as live performances go - the current project is barely in double figures for shows played - her return to the UK next March is already among 2013's most eagerly anticipated. This is 'I Follow You' from her glorious self-titled debut.
12. bare pale
Every now and then we receive a demo that blows our tiny little minds. Enter bare pale, a trio from London who specialise in squidgy, lo-fi reverb-heavy post-punk. Despite having only been together less than a year, their If It Is six-track mini-album is one of the finest new collections to grace our stereo this year. Listen to 'Shame' and tell me we're wrong!
13. Fever Dream
Another band we knew very little about until recently are fellow London outfit Fever Dream. Imagine Interpol had they been reared on a diet of Creation Records earliest works and the entire back catalogue of Sarah Records and you're somewhere close. Their first self-titled six-track EP only came out in October and frankly rocks our socks off. Here's the video for lead track 'This Waste'.
14. Die! Die! Die!
If ever the phrase "criminally underrated" was applied to music then the name Die! Die! Die! would probably top the list every time. Now about to record their tenth anniversary as a band, fourth long player Harmony slipped out quietly earlier this year when in fact it should have been taking the roofs off buildings. However, just because no one else cared doesn't mean we don't. This is 'Trinity', the second single to be released from the album and it's a beast.
15. Farewell Republic
Let me introduce you to Farewell Republic, three Brooklyn-based art punks who make shoegaze sound like it's about to be delivered from outer space in the future rather than deriving from the home counties of England a quarter of a century ago. Their album Burn The Boats came out in February of this year, and rather than pick out any one individual piece as a taster we recommend you dive in for the whole shebang from start to finish.
16. Ringo Deathstarr
Austin's Ringo Deathstarr have graduated to beng one of the scene's leading lights in recent years. 2011's collaboration with And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead's Jason Reece 'Shadow' suggested their next phase would see them develop a harder, abrasive edge and this year's Mauve long player pretty much confirmed that. This is 'Rip', the first single lifted off the album back in August.
17. Toba Caldera
Remember Exit Calm (who've also just about finished recording their long awaited second album incidentally)? Well, they've spawned a host of proteges in and around their native South Yorkshire. By far the best of the bunch are Toba Caldera, a five-piece hailing from the less-than-glamorous surroundings of Barnsley. Although still unsigned, if reports from their live shows and the excellent 'Grace' demo are anything to go by, we suspect that will change imminently.
18. Neil Halstead and those Slowdive reunion rumours
When former Slowdive guitarist, singer and songwriter Neil Halstead hinted at the possibility of a reunion earlier this year, a thousand floppy fringes swayed simultaneously before staring down at their make-believe FX pedals as a gratuitous sign of rejoicing. Of course, while such a reformation would be welcomed with open arms, Halstead has been keeping himself busy, releasing Palindrome Hunches, his third solo long player. These days more akin musically with Nick Drake or Tim Buckley than the kaleidoscopic ambiance of yore, here's the haunting 'Digging Shelters'.
19. Dead Skeletons
Based in Reykjavik and recent associates of Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dead Skeletons are one of the most unique and genuinely beguiling outfits to emerge from the psychedelic underground in recent years. Last year's Dead Magick long player could have been scripted by Aleister Crowley while forthcoming single 'Buddha Christ', out later this week (12.12.12) sounds like freeform jazz as reenacted by the living dead, i.e. brutal.
Hailing from Cambridge, Carousels are a five-piece who first came to our attention earlier this year courtesy of their excellent self-released Pop EP. Since then, having spent the majority of October touring the country with current buzz band Peace (both bands share the same manager) and possibly scaring a nation of teenage hipsters into submission, they've been busy in the studio while preparing for one of their biggest hometown shows to date with shoegaze legends Mark Gardener and Robin Guthrie. Here's a fan-made video for the excellent 'Over Me'.
21. The Carousels
Like buses, you wait all day for one to come along then two arrive at the same time. Carousels that is. Except this lot are from the Scottish highlands. Keith to be exact. Self-released album Sweet Northern Light reminds us of Primal Scream during their Sonic Flower Groove phase, a defter Teenage Fanclub or the more experimental stylings of The Byrds even. Here's 'Marianne' from said album, all of which can be heard on the band's soundcloud page.
More undiscovered capital goodness, this time in the shape of Gum, a dreamy four-piece still only in the early stages of their second year together. Recent EP Seventeen came out at the start of November and was produced by former Test Icicle Rory Attwell. For the princely sum of just £5, we wholeheartedly recommend its purchase. You won't be disappointed.
Also hailing from London,Deathline fuse industrial rhythms, nascent electronica and feedback heavy drones with pop sensibilities not that dissimilar to The Raveonettes or The Kills. Except louder, much louder in fact. Their self-released album Nova came out last month, and is well worth a listen.
24. White Manna
Californian quintet White Manna describe their musical genre as simply "LSD" on their Facebook page. Listening to their hazy, self-titled mini-album released in June of this year, that descriptive isn't exactly far off the mark either. Currently signed to Holy Mountain, here's the album's epic opener 'Acid Head'.
One of the most inspiring outfits to emerge from that whole Brooklyn underground scene in recent years is Weekend. 2010's Sports long player made such a big impact with Drowned In Sound upon release that it became one of our albums of the year, while last year's follow-up EP Red also made its mark on these very pages. Since then, it's all been pretty quiet from the trio but we're reliably informed that a new record will be ready next year hopefully followed by a tour including UK dates. Here's a cover of Half Church's 'Paradise', recorded earlier this year.
26. Then Comes Silence
Mysterious Stockholm four-piece Then Comes Silence have made a conscious effort to conceal their anonymity since forming earlier this year, although we can actually reveal it's the new project from Sad Day For Puppets' Alex Svensson. Intrinsically darker and altogether heavier than his other band, they've just put out their self-titled long player on Novoton Records and it's rather good. This is current single 'Death By A Frozen Heart'.
Tender New Signs, the follow-up to 2010's The Waves, seems to have afforded Tamaryn the recognition they so richly deserve. The California-based duo combine richly textured melodies with a seductive vocal courtesy of Tamaryn herself. New single 'The Garden' is just one of many stand-out cuts from the album, and here's the quite colourful new video.
Emerging from London with a similar shared vision as Toy and The Horrors before them, Novella take 1960s garage, squeeze it through a blender marked C86 then doused the remnants in reverb and feedback. Current single 'Mary's Gun' is undoubtedly one of the finest 45s to grace our stereo this year. Here's the video in all its glory.
29. Echo Lake
It's been a year of mixed emotions for London's Echo Lake. Having released the startling Wild Peace in June to widespread critical acclaim including a richly deserved 9/10 on Drowned In Sound, the band had to overcome the tragic passing of drummer Peter Hayes just days before the record's release. Next week will see them play their final show of 2012, headlining the Club AC30 Xmas Party at London's Water Rats venue. In the meantime, here's the video to former single 'Another Day'.
30. Cheval Sombre
New York native Christopher Porpora has established himself as a songwriter of considerable repute thanks to 2009's self-titled debut. This year's follow-up, Mad Love, a record based around the tragic story of Emma Hauck reaffirmed those distinctions. Featuring contributions from the likes of Sonic Boom, MGMT and Dean & Britta, here's the harrowing 'She Went Walking In The Rain'.
31. Her Vanished Grace
Her Vanished Grace's Charlie and Nancy Nieland have been playing together for twenty-five years now. Having initially started out as a post punk influenced duo, 1992's Festival coincided with a dramatic shift in style and sound, encompassing a more layered technique omnipresent throughout their work to the present day. Having extended their line-up to a four-piece in 2003, they've gone on to record twelve albums over the course of their career. Most recent effort Star-Crossed stands aloft as one of their finest, and here's their most recent video for 'Fade Away', which is taken from the album.
Liverpool foursome Ninetails first came to our attention earlier this year thanks to the excellent Slept And Did Not Sleep EP. And did we also mention that it's free to download from their bandcamp page? So what are you waiting for...
California's Allah-Las have emerged this year as one of the leading lights of the much-vaunted psyche movement. Currently playing a handful of shows around the UK as we speak, they're well worth checking out before they head back home for Christmas. This is former single 'Busman's Holiday'.
34. Thee Piatcions
Thee Piatcions originate from Domodossola in the north of Italy. Having put out their debut LP Senseless Sense at the back end of 2011, their reputation has grown as one of the tightest live bands on the psychedelic circuit, culminating in a show stopping performance at September's International Festival of Psychedelia in Liverpool. Their new EP Heaven's Sins is out in February on Fuzz Club Records and from the clips we've heard, sounds very promising indeed. In the meantime here's previous 45 'As Seen Through A Telescope'.
35. Flights Of Helios
Flights Of Helios hail from Oxford and describe themselves as "the sound of buildings collapsing and ice caps melting". While not entirely disagreeing with such an adventurous narrative, we'd rather position them as the missing link between Von era Sigur Ros and the more experimental leanings of Explosions In The Sky. You don't believe us? Listen to the ace 'Dynah & Donalogue' below...
36. School Of Seven Bells
School Of Seven Bells made an album so good DiS editor Sean Adams called it "a most wonderful storm of a record indeed". They also put out a low-key EP last month entitled _Put Your Sad Down. It's also great. Listen for yourselves.
Formed two years ago over a shared love of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and The Jesus And Mary Chain after a chance meeting at a birthday party, Toronto's Beliefs have already set tongues wagging on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to their self-titled debut. Heavily influenced by the first wave of classic shoegaze bands, the distinctive vocals of Jesse Crowe ensuring they stand out resiliently from the chasing pack. Current single 'Catch My Breath' having just been released in the UK on the No Pain In Pop label, their second long player is expected to be ready by spring 2013. Here's a clip of the band performing the as-yet unreleased 'Dead Water' from their forthcoming album.
38. Waldo & Marsha
I travelled to SPOT Festival in Aarhus earlier in the year and was quite taken aback at some of the homegrown talent on display. One of many highlights were the excellent Waldo & Marsha an eight-strong ensemble from Copenhagen channelling the aggression of The Brian Jonestown Massacre through a Creation Records distiller. Their performance was quite frankly breathtaking, and with an album set to follow next year, the future looks rosy indeed.
39. Far Away From Fiji
Staying in Denmark, another discovery from Scandinavia are cinematic four-piece Far Away From Fiji. Initially created as a concept to create a soundtrack to an imaginary movie, the band then decided to make accompanying films to all of their songs. Here's the video for 'We Could Be Kings'.
40. A Place To Bury Strangers
As the self-proclaimed purveyors of sonic annihilation, A Place To Bury Strangers have rightly earned their place as the most revered noise rock band on the planet. Third long player Worship saw them move away from the all-out sonic attack of Exploding Head, instead focusing on a more textured, electronic-tinged approach. Although not as instantaneous as its predecessor, Worship still stands proud as one of 2012's finest guitar-based records. Here's 'And I'm Up', the fortieth and final instalment of our round-up of 2012. Enjoy!
And finally, here's a 48 song Spotify mixtape compiling the best of this year's Some Velvet Mixtape columns.
April's Some Velvet Mixtape.
Some Velvet Mourning/Mixtape will return in 2013.