By Aanen Butz, Chattanooga, TN—My Bloody Valentine, for those who are unfamiliar, is one of the most innovative and influential bands of the last 25 years.
Led by visionary frontman Kevin Shields, their dreamlike blend of feathery vocals and hazy guitar fuzz has paved the way for the musical genre known as “shoegaze.”
In 1991, they released “Loveless,” which became one of the most universally acclaimed albums in music history. Today, it is celebrated as an iconic, timeless classic.
However, the pressure to produce a follow-up may have proven to be too much, as My Bloody Valentine essentially disappeared. There is much speculation as to why, but the consensus seems to be that Shields was suffering from a serious case of writer’s block.
This was the cause of much skepticism after an early announcement that a new album was in the works. After all, they had already been broken up for 15 years, and there was evidence that they had completely scrapped over two album’s worth of material.
However, Feb. 5, without much fanfare, the band self-released “mbv,” the mythical album that has been 22 years in the making.
Like its title would suggest, this album is My Bloody Valentine in its purest form.
The music is marked by their signature coalescence of thick, fuzzy guitars and delicate, whispery vocals, like gentle waves of melody crashing into dense walls of sound.
At first, the effect can be a bit distracting. The heavier sounds seem like they are overpowering the fragile ones.
However, upon further listening, they do more to highlight the intricacies of instrumentation and production by causing the listener to pay more attention than usual to hear and comprehend everything that is going on.
This is a beautiful paradox, as this is a record that seemingly gets less cacophonous as more new sounds emerge.
Because of this, this album is an extraordinarily immersive experience that only gets more rewarding with each listen.
One of the most impressive things about “mbv” is that it contains songs that were written and recorded in three different decades, but it still comes together to create something so unified and seamless.
However, it is not necessarily surprising, given Shields’ reputation as one of music’s most notorious perfectionists. Here, his attention to detail is apparent in everything from the songwriting to the mixing.
Individually, the songs on this album are very wide-ranging, from the ethereal, melodic dream pop of “Is This and Yes” to the violent whirlwind of percussion and reverb featured in “Wonder 2.”
However, “In Another Way” and album centerpiece “If I Am” are the tracks that best represent the band’s trademark amalgamation of hazy instrumentation, airy vocals and hypnotizing rhythm.
While this album doesn’t break very much new ground for My Bloody Valentine, it is still a fantastic record that will serve not only as an illustration, but as a reminder, of everything shoegaze music can be.
Highlights: “New You,” “Is This and Yes,” and “If I Am.”