Dream Pop. It sounds really lovely and you can fall asleep to it.
Dream Pop is a specific subgenre of Alternative Rock
that emerged in the middle of The '80s
, and is commonly associated with the label 4AD Records
. As befitting its name, dream pop lies in the middle between Ambient
music and pop: It borrows the emphasis on ethereal soundscapes typical of the former and applies it to the catchy melodies of the latter. Theoretically this gives it the best of both worlds, since it avoids both ambient's excessive monotony or inscrutability
and pop's shallower tendencies. In troper terms, it's basically the musical equivalent of Scenery Porn
While the genre itself appeared in The '80s
, the Velvet Underground
song "Sunday Morning" has been cited as basically the Ur-Example
of the genre, once again supporting the old joke that people who buy Velvet Underground albums will start their own bands.
Dream pop's indie status means that its bands don't have access to incredibly advanced equipment or funds in their quest for sonic beauty. Typical characteristics of the genre include heavily processed guitars and synthesizers, breathy, high-pitched generally female vocals - the occasional male vocals show up but they tend to be just as breathy - and heavy use of reverb and echo
to give the songs a sort of celestial atmosphere. Basically, you can think of dream pop as the musical equivalent of Scenery Porn
with a tendency to Perishing Alt Rock Voice
. Thanks to its association with 4AD, the genre even had its own distinctive visual identity thanks to Vaughan Oliver and v23's work for that label: Minimalistic Cover Art
designs employing very blurry imagery and occasional use of Deliberately Monochrome
Generally, if someone says "dream pop", they're most likely thinking of bands in The '80s
on the 4AD label, such as Dead Can Dance
, Cocteau Twins
, Dif Juz and the genre's own Supergroup
, This Mortal Coil
. These bands represent dream pop's "classic sound" - all instruments and voices soaked in reverb, breathy vocals, introspective themes and creating a wall of sound out of generally sparse instrumentation note
, adding up to something that, all snarkery aside, is really quite beautiful. Most dream pop bands varied in terms of emotion between somber and depressing
. Still, not every band on 4AD was dream pop (The Pixies
, The Breeders
, Colourbox and Throwing Muses were on the label) and not every dream pop band was on 4AD (Cranes, The Passions, Bel Canto, Galaxie 500 and The Dream Academy among many others were on other labels). While dream pop was intially a pretty unified genre, variations on the basic "ethereal soundscapes + pop melodies" formula soon appeared, in particular bands that focused more on guitars than synths. Pretty soon, the genre started splintering into a ton of other subgenres as well: Low went into slowcore
, Mazzy Star smashed together Dream Pop
and Psychedelic Rock
, Love Spirals Downwards
went into electronica, and so on.
Dream pop was an important influence on the emergence of Shoegazing
, and starting with The '90s
the two genres began cross-breeding and eventually became indistinguishable. You're not likely to find many Dream Pop
bands that use the "classic sound" of the Cocteaus or This Mortal Coil anymore, although there are a few new bands, such as Beach House
, that continue the "traditional" dream pop sound. There aren't many of these, but they're pretty popular amongst indie kids. Instead, there's a ton of bands that are somewhere between dream pop and shoegazing (which in itself could be called Dream Pop
taken Up to Eleven
), most likely thrown under the umbrella term "post-rock" - a good example of this would be Sigur Rós
likes this genre, as seen through his production work with Julee Cruise
and his use of This Mortal Coil's awesome cover
of "Song to the Siren" in Lost Highway
The polar opposite of this genre is Drone Metal
, which is Nightmare Fuel
in music form.
Bands associated with dream pop include:
- A.R. Kane
- Au Revoir Simone
- Asobi Seksu, as of their third album. (Their previous two were My Bloody Valentine-imitating Shoegazing.)
- Azure Ray are dream pop, with the overwhelming reverb replaced by folk and indie influences.
- Bat For Lashes
- Beach House (unique combination of dream pop and Surf Rock)
- Bel Canto
- The Blue Nile (Though the Trope Maker and Codifier of Sophisti-Pop, they owe a lot of their atmosphere to the Cocteau Twins. Where most Dream Pop bands have a tendency to lean more towards lo-fi, these guys are very much hi-fi. If The Cocteau Twins grabbed a vocalist that sang like Morrissey, and stole all of Michael Bolton's synthesizers, you'd have these guys.)
- Bon Voyage (the Starflyer 59 side project), though they switched to Synth Pop on their most recent album.
- Candy Claws (self-described "dream, dream, dream, dream pop")
- The Chameleons
- Cocteau Twins (Trope Makers and Trope Codifiers)
- Cranes (notably, unlike their more optimistic or atmospheric comrades, they dived completely into nightmarish Post-Punk with the absolute creepiest Creepy Child vocals ever.)
- Their recent albums are much more optimistic.
- Julee Cruise
- The Dandy Warhols (with a little Noise Rock thrown in, occasionally)
- Dead Can Dance (crossing over into Goth and world music)
- Deftones (a cross between Alternative Metal and Dream Pop, with Shoegazing and New Wave influences)
- Chino Moreno's side project Team Sleep, on the other hand, is mostly Dream Pop.
- The Delays
- Dif Juz (a completely instrumental band)
- The Doves (also Britpop)
- Dream Academy (also Psychedelic Rock)
- Elbow (another band that combines it with Britpop)
- Freelance Whales
- Galaxie 500
- Luna (formed by ex-members of Galaxie 500)
- His Name Is Alive
- iamamiwhoami (Dream Pop + Shoegazing + Electronic + Concept Video)
- Lisa Germano
- Love Spirals Downwards
- Luna (NOT to be confused with the Funeral Doom band of the same name)
- Mazzy Star
- Mercury Rev (dream pop, but with influences from Noise Pop and Psychedelic Rock)
- Mojave 3 (formed by ex-Slowdive members, dream pop crossing over into sadcore and alternative country)
- This Mortal Coil (not technically a "band", see above explanation; also Trope Codifiers)
- Owl City
- The Passions
- Purity Ring
- Radiohead, while nominally Alternative Rock have occasionally shown influences from it, such as on "No Surprises", which is both Dream Pop and Art Rock.
- School Of Seven Bells
- All Shoegazing bands could be associated with dream pop due to the latter's influence on the former and some overlap between the two genres. For some it's reasonable (Slowdive, which later evolved into the aforementioned Mojave 3, possibly Starflyer 59), for others it's just too much of a stretch (My Bloody Valentine are pure shoegazing, Lush had their moments but too few to actually call them dream pop, Ride moved into different territory later on).
- Another genre heavily influenced by Dream pop was Slowcore. Bands like Red House Painters and Low have a very atmospheric and dreamy soundscape that sounds a lot like the bands from the genre.
- Sigur Rós (dream pop + Post-Rock)
- The Sundays (debatable, some people claim they are just a more laid-back version of The Smiths)
- Wild Beasts, whilst generally labelled as Art Pop, have dabbled in this genre quite a bit, especially on the album Smother.
- The xx are fairly modern, but unmistakably dreamy, breathy, and beautiful.
- The album Enchant by Emilie Autumn is basically a mix between this and Baroque Pop.