Inspired by The Simpsons and hailing from Los Angeles, Snowball ii is an indie shoegaze band from from the mind of Jackson Wargo. With a slightly atmospheric/slightly pop aesthetic, Snowball ii sounds like a glorious conflation of nostalgia and candy mixed with stunning beauty and aching loss; it’s a lot, but it works. In anticipation of the band’s newest EP, Eaton Super 10, Jackson joins us for a Top 10 session to dish on the top shoegaze records you may have missed.
Check out the trippy “I Can Come” from 2016’s oddly titled ?.
10. Infinity Girl – Just Like Lovers
– One of my roommates in college made this record. I remember hearing him mixing it from down the hall, and I barged into his room and made him play it for me. He wasn’t happy to do so, but he did. I used to say that the opening track, “Untitled (July)”, is what my soul sounds like. It’s all I listened to the winter it was released.
Listen to: “Untitled (July)”
09. Yo La Tengo – Fade
– All emotional attachment and nostalgia aside, Fade is a finely considered work of art. Take the opening track, “Ohm,” for example. A song which regards the unchanging flow of reality. The band sits on one chord for seven minutes, which musically articulates the subject, while they sing reminders that reality is often unjust, unexplained, and harsh, but damn if it doesn’t have a good rhythm. “Lose no more time resisting the flow.” Sounds almost enlightened, doesn’t it? That’s because it is enlightened. It is no coincidence that the song’s title means not only a unit of electrical resistance, but also is the word that is chanted during transcendental meditation. Talk about a mission statement. There are nine more examples of the same level of craftsmanship on the album.
Listen to: “Ohm”
08. Infinity Girl – Stop Being on My Side
– This record came out on May 8th, 2012, and Infinity Girl played a release show in Boston at the TT The Bear’s Place, right before it shut down. I went alone. It was legendary: frontman Nolan Eley had a panic attack onstage at the end of the last song and started unintelligibly yelling into the microphone with tears in his eyes, threw his guitar down, and jumped offstage and ran out the front door of the venue and didn’t come back. Listen to the lyrics on this record and think about that show.
This one has some bombastic “Cannons.”
07. Swirlies – Cats of the Wild Vol. 2
– Swirlies’ Cats of the Wild… is not an album that is talked about much among Swirlies fans that I hang around with, but I’ve taken many cues from it. It isn’t even on Spotify – is there no justice in the world?
Listen to: “give us moonrocks!”
06. Infinity Girl – Harm
– Infinity Girl’s Harm is music that is meant to be looked into. That isn’t to say that it isn’t exceptional at first listen, but the more closely I listen to it, the more I love and learn from it.
Listen to: “Hold”
05. Lilys – Eccsame the Photon Band
– This album is shoegaze’s best-kept secret. Lilys put this out in 1994, and it is sonically a decade ahead of its time. And they were basically kids making this! Twenty-somethings. Produced by Rich Costey, who was the engineer at Phillip Glass’ personal studio. Masterstrokes by all involved.
The sublimely chill “Day of the Monkey.”
04. Spiritualized – Let It Come Down
– I believe J. Spaceman’s mission statement to spiritualize and electrify the drug of rock is most clearly articulated in these recordings. Let It Come Down is music not to hear, but to feel.
Listen to: “Stop Your Crying”
03. Lilys – A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns
– Kurt Heasley is – by no accident – a master of packing enormous amounts of information and emotion into short phrases. His lyrics contain so much truth that he is able to bury the vocals way down in the mix – to the point where everything he says is just barely intelligible – and still be lauded as one of his genre’s premier lyricists.
Listen to: “Ginger”
02. Brian Jonestown Massacre – Spacegirl & Other Favourites
– Some of these songs were rerecorded and appear elsewhere in the BJM catalogue, but these are my favourite versions of them. Also, it takes a lot of confidence for an unknown (at the time) band to begin an album with over a minute of guitar feedback. I don’t believe that their confidence is unwarranted. The listener who stays past Anton Newcombe’s loyalty test is richly rewarded with his great talent and dedication to his craft.
You’ll be “Crushed” by this tune, once you get past the initial feedback test.
01. Spacemen 3 – Recurring
– Spacemen 3 can be a challenging band for some listeners. They achieved cult legend status and continue to receive critical acclaim almost three decades after they disbanded. This says a great deal about a group who went out of their way to play as few notes as possible. Recurring is the album that helped me – soberly – understand how Spacemen 3’s unique brand of minimalism can be an avenue for not only hypnotic meditation, but also other emotions like joy and rock.
Listen to: “Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here)”
Snowball ii’s Eaton Super 10 is out April 12th on Doughnut Records.