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Dream Pop

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Secondary Stylistic Influences:

Dream Pop. It sounds really lovely; 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. Dream pop vocalists tend to use their voice more like an instrument, and thus lyrics tend to be hard to understand and mixed low. 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 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, terrifying and optimistic. 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, Shoegazing 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, most likely thrown under the umbrella term "post-rock" - a good example of this would be Sigur Rós.

David Lynch 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. Not to be confused with Ethereal Wave, a Lighter and Softer subgenre of Goth Rock.

Bands associated with dream pop include: