A lot of music fans put atmosphere at the same level as songwriting. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I find this impossible to do. If an artist tries to create a certain mood, but doesn’t seem to put effort into its melody or music, I get bored. Thus, dream pop isn’t a genre made for me.
Actually, though, early dream pop is pretty amazing. I can get behind Cocteau Twins, The Sundays and even Mazzy Star, all of which created sonically gorgeous and dreamy music that was still melodic. Today’s dream pop artists are iffier, but I do like M83 and Beach House in small doses.
Dream pop bands Dum Dum Girls and Warpaint both released albums recently. I actually kinda like Dum Dum Girls (their cover of the Smiths’ “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” is essential), but I don’t like Warpaint much at all (I saw them at Lollapalooza before their first album even came out, and was so bored by them that it’s not even something I brag about). Both of these albums accomplish what they’re trying to do, but the question is whether or not they’re good.
Dum Dum Girls: “Too True” (Sub Pop) It’s rare for a dream pop band to keep their albums this short, but this band’s willingness to avoid being excessive is a blessing. Decent at their best and mediocre at their worst, they have managed to release a couple memorable records by merely keeping the time lengths low, allowing their strong points to stand out. On their new album, there’s a pretty equal mix of highs and lows. “Rimbaud Eyes” and “In the Wake of You” are lush and mellifluous, while “Too True to Be Good” and “Under These Hands” display their less remarkable qualities, managing to seem overlong at just over three minutes. Not their greatest album, but probably the one that most accurately represents them. Grade: B
Warpaint: “Warpaint” (Rough Trade) The other side of dream pop: just as hit-or-miss, but with songs that drag on, bringing the album’s total time to 51 minutes, about 10 of which are actually enjoyable. The worst song, “Biggy,” is also the longest, and the standout tracks seem less notable when listened to outside of the album. Grade: C PLUS