Shoegaze is a weird genre. Mockingly referred to as "the scene that celebrates itself," it's had an embattled history in the music press. Emerging in the late '80s and continuing through the early '90s in the US and UK, the shoegaze sound was most often characterized by heavy distortion, droning, ethereal guitar lines and incredibly loud 'wall of sound' production. Abrasive as often as soothing, visceral yet detached, shoegaze continues to have a heavy influence on bands today. (See Big Troubles, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, A Place To Bury Strangers)
My Bloody Valentine: Only Shallow
The original, the first, and to many, the only. MBV were way ahead of their time in terms of sound and approach. Their seminal 1991 album, Loveless, is touted by many as one of the greatest albums of all time. Give 'er a listen, you won't be sorry.
Ride is another shoegazing heavywight. Their debut album Nowhere is one of the finest examples of the genre. In a Different Place is definitely a standout, especially with that devastating drum transition about a minute and a half in.
Slowdive hit the scene a bit too late to have been hugely popular. By the time they released this track on their second album, the British music press was pretty much over shoegaze. Their loss, though, this song is killer.
Chapterhouse, more than any of these other bands, got the so called "shit end of the stick." Breather, the opening track of their first album, is a shoegaze gem. The only problem was, well, no one really cared.
I had to include an American band on the list, because, well, we were there too, kind of. Swirlies were a Boston band that made a bunch of awesome and varied albums. This track, from their second, shows what they were capable of.
Pale Saints round out the holy trifecta of shoegaze alongside MBV and Ride. In this track off their first album, you can hear them transitioning into the shoegaze sound from the jangly rock they played in the '80s.