My new years' resolution was vague enough this year that I've actually kept it so far: it is to Learn A Bit About Art. I've started with the Northern European and Italian (particularly Venetian) Renaissance painters, for no other reason than there are a load of great exhibitions on the subject around at the moment (not to mention Waldemar Januszczak's exemplary BBC4 series The Renaissance Unchained). Gradually, with a bit more reading around the subject, the names, styles, key works and dates started to stick. Then a couple of weeks ago I went to the Royal Academy's In the Age of Giorgione and was stunned: it was as if the pictures could speak. Instead of my usual art gallery routine: reading the little caption, nodding and saying 'that one's good', I could say interesting and informed things - things that weren't even a slight re-wording of the little caption to make me sound clever. This is scary knowledge, and I have to admit, I want more of it. This, dear reader (and bless you for getting so far into this 'review', I know it hasn't been easy) is the power of context.

While listening to Still in a Dream, a new five-disc set from Cherry Red telling the story of shoegaze - it occurred to me that great exhibitions and great box sets (and this really is a great box set) have to do similar things. In both cases, they should place the jewels in their crowns in a wider context, acknowledging their antecedents and demonstrating their immediate - and sometimes lasting - influence. Still in a Dream does this well, starting and ending a few years either side of what we might call 'peak shoegaze' and placing the biggest bands of the genre (Swervedriver, Ride, Slowdive, the three acts famously merged into one by a wag NME writer at the time) alongside lesser-known influences and acolytes.

To those jewels first, then - and there are many. Disc one (of five) is understandably hit-heavy, including Galaxie 500 and The Telescopes - there are also strong tracks from two early pioneers: The Jesus and Mary Chain and Cocteau Twins. Disc Two boasts what might be the core of shoegaze. It feels churlish to pick out single tracks on what is a huge collection of music, but Swervedriver's 'Rave Down' surely deserves special focus as an astonishingly immediate blast, in what was often derided as a musically passive scene. Its power remains undiminished 26 years on.

Another feature of a great exhibition should be its capacity to unearth hidden gems without compromising on quality. And Still in a Dream also does this in abundance, highlighting the depth of a genre that has been (perhaps unfairly) pruned by selective memory to only a handful of bands; there are in fact more artists waiting to be discovered here than I have space to mention. One of the benefits of the set's size is that it can give space to corners previous compilations might have overlooked - namely, the American side. Discs four and five feature early salvos from The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, before they settled on their respective takes on cosmic Americana. They make a convincing argument for more of an American inclusion in the genre - traditionally the divide between the two concurrent scenes, grunge and shoegaze, is pretty strictly compartmentalised between the UK and the US.

This is education-as-entertainment at its finest, providing a strong narrative of a genre's rise and fall, as well as a clear pointer of what was to come. The subtitle ('A Story of Shoegaze', rather than 'THE...') is indicative of the skill and nuance with which the set is compiled. Surely one of the strongest box sets of the year, Still in a Dream arrives on point, too: shoegaze is rapidly being re-evaluated by a generation of new artists, and a few of the old masters are re-awakening - Lush being the latest. You simply won't find a better guide to this most impressionistic of movements.