Year of release: 2017
The early 1990's were a banner year for the shoegaze genre. My Bloody Valentine released the classic Loveless in 1991, while Ride's seminal Nowhere burst onto the scene just a year prior. Just For A Day, the debut from English rockers Slowdive, also came out in 1991, but whereas My Bloody Valentine specialized in lo-fi crescendos and Ride laid down up-tempo jangle, Slowdive mostly focused on the more ambient textures inherent in the newly formed genre. Now that shoegaze has seen a revival over the past decade, and in some senses ran its course with dozens of wannabe indie bands cranking out variations of the sound, the forefathers of the scene are back to show the kids how it's done. With My Bloody Valentine already mounting a fairly successful, if derivative, comeback and Ride recently dropping their first new material in over 20 years, Slowdive's latest might completely fly under the radar. This would be a shame, since their self-titled effort is a graceful return to form.
While outwardly familiar in sound--reverb-heavy instrumentation, hushed boy/girl vocals, steady basslines, shimmering guitar chords--Slowdive nonetheless make minor tweaks to their aesthetic placing them firmly in the modern age. For example, "Star Roving" is quite possibly the loudest and most aggressive song the band has written to date, and yet, it still hums poetically atop glistening guitar arpeggios and gorgeous dueling harmonies courtesy of singer-guitarists Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell. Meanwhile, "Go Get It" has a swirling, almost jazzy structure; with Halstead's vocals taking on a synth-pop-esque monotone similar to that of Tame Impala's Kevin Parker. However, Slowdive never give into the kind of jaunty hooks which inform so many of the newer shoegaze acts; instead, they expand their sonic palette outward and inward simultaneously.
Slowdive is a vastly rewarding listen; full of cascading dream-like soundscapes containing haunting melodies. 22 years since their last release, Pygmalion, the band have retained their mastery over a distinctive sound they helped popularize by wrestling the genre back to its roots while still making room for what lies ahead.