Subscriber Playlist, September 2023: Catching the Breeze
Subscribers can enjoy my tribute to the music and legacy of Slowdive.
I still remember how I learned about Slowdive. I was down in my college dorm’s computer lab, reading the latest issue of Dreampop — a now-defunct webzine published by Brendon Macaraeg that was dedicated to shoegaze and other ethereal-minded music — and he described the band’s music as making him feel like he was still floating in his mother’s womb.
Given that sort of vivid imagery, how could I not check them out?
I purchased a used cassette copy of Slowdive’s 1991 debut Just for a Day, and the rest, as they say, is history. The band’s swirly-yet-melancholy atmospherics, gossamery guitar textures, and heartbreaking male/female vocal harmonies — as heard on songs like “Celia’s Dream” and “Catch the Breeze” — instantly entranced me, and for the last 28 or so years, Slowdive has been one of my absolute favorite bands.
Although their early EPs were met with rapturous praise — one critic even went so far as to write that Slowdive made “Cocteau Twins sound like Mudhoney” — the fickle British music press eventually turned on Slowdive as Britpop began to dominate the musical landscape. Following 1995’s Pygmalion, which delved into abstract and minimalist soundscapes — i.e., the sort of the thing that would eventually be called “post-rock” — Slowdive broke up and its members moved on to other musical projects like Mojave 3, Monster Movie, and Televise. And that seemed to be that.
But then a funny thing happened. Though derided by the press and overlooked by many, Slowdive had developed a massive cult following and their influence could be heard in a new wave of shoegazers and post-rockers throughout the 2000s and beyond. This resurgence in popularity culminated in a new self-titled album in 2017 that proved worth the decades-long wait. Slowdive’s fifth album, Everything Is Alive, was released today and they’ll be touring North America throughout September and October. Which means that now seems like a perfect time to reflect on Slowdive’s catalog as well as their legacy and influence.
Therefore, this month’s playlist is actually a twofer. The first half collects some of my favorite Slowdive songs, from their early Cure-influenced tunes through their forays into ambient and electronic music to their triumphant return. The second half features a slew of artists who probably wouldn’t have started making music in the first place were it not for albums like Just for a Day and Souvlaki. Artists who, like me, have been entranced by Slowdive’s music for a long, long time.
All in all, it’s nearly three hours of some of the best shoegaze and dream pop you’re likely to hear all month long.