6 Bands Pioneering a Dreamy Wave of Post-Hardcore Right Now
If you like your rock heartfelt, shimmery, and drenched in reverb, you probably know the names Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine, Catherine Wheel and Ride. These four horsemen of shoegaze branded their own genre by making it louder, coarser, and fuzzier than anyone had ever done before. Soon, the popularity of British-born shoegaze would drip into dreamy American indie and alt-rock (e.g. Deerhunter, Wild Nothing, Silversun Pickups, etc.), and would eventually spawn experimental “blackgaze” metal (e.g. Deafheaven, Ghost Bath, Vattnet, etc.).
The latest subgenre of the movement retains characteristics of hardcore and punk (i.e. the aggressive exhibitionist display of emotion and chord-augmented melodies) while adding more: more layers, more depth, more feedback, and more volume. The result is what we’ve decided to call gazecore: methodically complex, and melodically ethereal. Undoubtedly inspired by their English predecessors, these bands are pioneering the next wave of post-hardcore, drenched in reverb and delay.
Here are the six bands currently spearheading this new style…
Hundredth are the perfect example of a gazecore band. From 2008, the group had released three studio albums following a straightforward hardcore formula of loud, fast rules. We were thrown a massive curveball with 2017’s Rare. The album is beautiful – from the abstract cover art that looks like a deconstruction of Muse’s The 2nd Law to the ’80s style drenched-in-reverb aesthetic. The track Neurotic off Rare could moonlight as a B-side to Mrahc from Title Fight’s Hyperview, and Youth is a fantastic response to the post-punk revival movement. But the hardcore roots are still there, and frontman Chadwick Johnson continues to stay true to himself musically while also exploring different techniques. That duality and ability to balance personal interest with genuinely creative sounds results in a new genre all on its own.
Turnover were a fairly straightforward pop-punk band – releasing splits with Citizen and Such Gold, signing to indie punk-rock label Run for Cover Records – until they released Peripheral Vision in 2015. The album explores manic depression and the effect it has on oneself and on relationships… in the spaciest, dreamiest way possible. The track Diazepam is the best explanation for the direction this band took. As if treating it with Valium, Turnover sedated their hard-hitting punk sound and covered it with a layer of foggy reverb and delay. But what Turnover found was the perfect balance between a serious, exhibitionist-style display of emotion and a melodic wall of sound based on simple deconstructions of major and minor chords. The layers and lyrics add depth, leaving the listener with a heck of a sonic onion to peel.
A relatively new band, Movements definitely check all the boxes for a gazecore act. Legend has it that the band was signed by Fearless Records in 2015 after playing just one show. Fearless is known for signing bands appealing to fans of the Warped Tour (R.I.P.), but Movements is an interesting, melodic exception. An early demo titled Protection demonstrates where they came from (a La Dispute-esque combination of screamo and spoken word) and their 2017 release, Feel Something, speaks to where they are now. Will Yip’s production is evident on tracks like Daylily, which feels like a lo-fi version of a Citizen song, but the background of twinkly guitars and frequent note bends is a surprising, human element that makes this band stand out. Although the main vocals remain pretty predictable, the album is sprinkled with the shoegaze equivalent of guitar solos: sweeping breakdowns with handfuls of notes blended together for a floating effect.
Valleyheart are also relative new kids on the block. While drawing influence from many of the other gazecore veterans on this list, Valleyheart is unique in the fact their sound also borrows inspiration from folksy indie rock. The band created a Spotify playlist of “Songs and Sounds That Influenced” their latest album, which includes Mystery of Love (the Sufjan Stevens track from the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack) and The Hotelier’s An Introduction To the Album, which is a perfect explanation of their music. The punk elements are present but not pronounced; each album is a musical game of hide-and-seek. Drowned in Living Waters takes a symphonic twist on the shoegaze element, with quirky synths that sound like outtakes from a Kate Bush song and western-style sweeps that fade in and out so quickly you have to listen through headphones to catch them all. Alternatively, Agnosia brings the gazecore to you first thing, so all you’ve gotta do is sit back and enjoy the ethereal “ooos” and “ahhhs.”
Fiddlehead’s particular blend of hardcore punk draws influence from similar bands Basement and Have Heart, both of which are members of the band’s crew. Starting with a modest demo in 2014, Fiddlehead released what might be their magnum opus of creativity and musical exploration in 2018’s Springtime and Blind. The album departs from the distortion-based, aggressive punk found on previous works (2015’s Out of the Bloom could be easily mistaken as a lost Title Fight EP) and experiments with deeper, more intimate storytelling–the album is about loss and the grieving process — it shows emotional and melodic maturity. While the upbeat banger tracks from the album are Basement’s Colourmeinkindness-era replicas, tracks like 4/17/70, My World and Poem You deliver guitar and bass lines mixed with so many layers of vocals and noise that it turns into its own drowning, melodic wall of sound. The dreamy transition from Poem You into USMA shows off the attention to detail at which Fiddlehead are best.
For Citizen, the transition to gazecore was an organic one. Citizen started off on the heavier side of pop punk with their 2011 album Young States, but gained more exposure following the release of 2013’s Youth. The album was wildly popular in pop-punk and emo circles, but no one knew it was foreshadowing their future. Listen to Youth start to finish, and one can immediately hear the shoegaze influence. From the bending on Figure You Out to the walls of noise in The Night I Drove Alone, Citizen introduced a blend of emotive hardcore with hazy guitar loops so loud they’d fall into one another in chaotic harmony. Fast forward to 2015’s Everybody Is Going To Heaven and 2017’s As You Please: the band retain a hard punk edge in tracks like Stain but also dive deeper into spacey melodies on Dive Into My Sun and World. Citizen continue to experiment with background sounds in each album they release, from weird rattles to guitars so warbled they sound like feedback softened and played backwards, making them an important group to watch.
BALANCE AND COMPOSURE
At the moment, Balance and Composure’s future seems uncertain. Though they may remain on hiatus indefinitely, B&C’s signature sound – defined by monotonous, nihilistic vocals laid on top of a hodge-podge of guitar and bass – would encourage a number of the bands mentioned above. The band got more melodic on 2013’s The Things We Think We’re Missing, but retained elements of the loud rock sound on their initial hit album, 2011’s Separation. However, the real breakthrough came in 2016, with Light We Made, in which vocal lines are softer and buried in the mix, while guitars create a funky, spacey wave over each track. There’s a slight post-rock feel to the drums too, adding to the intricacy of the music. We’re only hoping that B&C will come out of retirement sooner than later to help take gazecore into the future.
Words: Maria Lewczyk
At one of their last shows ever, Balance And Composure make fans sad to see them go.
Watch twenty one pilots’ incredibly old-school lyric video for Level Of Concern.