Excellent post by Nitsuh Abebe on shoegaze, the music that dominated my young life for a few years. I don't listen to much of this stuff anymore--mostly because it's so firmly entwined with memories of my adolescence that it pretty much immediately sends me into a nostalgic or melancholy reverie--but I'm glad it hasn't entirely dropped out of the musical discourse. For a while after its popularity waned, it was quite fashionable to be really contemptuous of this stuff--with My Bloody Valentine's Loveless always serving as the forward-thinking exception that made obvious the supposed shortcomings of similar groups. These attacks sometimes had a real aggro, masculine thrust to them, which I never quite understood.
But Abebe nails it in his piece and I think this explains the music's appeal to my teenage self: this is music about confusion, a kind of confusion that is specifically resonant for young people who often feel powerful and powerless at the same time. Grand emotions; major rites of passage; life having an immediacy and beauty to it, qualities which for the first time you might realize can be fleeting--these are things shoegaze captures through sheer sonic force (which is good since it's mostly impossible to understand the lyrics) while also offering catharsis and comfort. It's music for and of a delicious but delirious kind of swooning. Here is an old favorite, Slowdive's "Catch the Breeze", the way this ends is still pretty stunning to me: