Posts tagged: dream pop

Vacationer – Gone

By , March 21, 2012 4:00 pm

Vacationer is an East Coast synth-pop group (roots in Philly and Brooklyn) who recently released their debut LP Gone, a lovely, airy bit of chill wave/dream-pop inspired stuff. The title track is the obvious winner, meditating on a cozy melody and coalescing nicely around vocalist Kenny Vasoli’s soothing vocals (yes, the same Kenny Vasoli from pop-punk stalwarts The Starting Line - quite a change of pace!). RIYL: MGMT, Washed Out, lullabies.

Vacationer – “Gone”

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Release date March 20, 2012.

Sleigh Bells – Road To Hell

By , March 12, 2012 10:00 am

One of my favorite tracks from (still) one of my favorite albums of the year. Very trippy, with an emphasis on Alexis’ layered vocals – a different, dreamier tack for the band that I love. Get Reign of Terror if you haven’t yet.

Sleigh Bells – “Road To Hell”

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Release date February 21, 2012.

School of Seven Bells – Ghostory

By , February 27, 2012 10:00 am

School of Seven Bells – Ghostory

Vagrant Records 2012

Rating: 8/10

The concept surrounding Ghostory is flimsy at best – the running narrative of a girl named Lafaye and all the ghosts that one would expect to surround a girl with such a Victorian name. The loss of Claudia Deheza robs School of Seven Bells of one of their most distinctive characteristics, the angelic, unearthly harmonizing between Claudia and twin sister Alejandra. Yet Ghostory, the band’s third record and their first as a duo, is uncommonly strong and surefooted, a remarkable transformation of their gossamer-thin dream pop into something vigorous and visceral. Where 2010’s lackluster Disconnect from Desire was all style and little substance, Ghostory is surprisingly forceful and direct in its message, one that melds almost seamlessly the sublime drone of My Bloody Valentine with the nostalgia of M83. It’s dreamy and hopelessly untethered from straightforward pop, like School of Seven Bells have always been, yet for the first time Ghostory sounds like the work of an organic, spontaneous band, rather than the determined sculptors of hypnotic, icy shoegaze they had seemed content to remain.

Ghostory carries with it connotations of magic and spirituality, and if there’s an ideal word to describe Alejandra Deheza’s vocals, a good place to start would be “otherworldly.” Hers is a voice that prefers to soar rather than coo, speeding along through a storm of synths or layering on top of itself many times over, a more ethereal Florence Welch or a druggier Natasha Khan. At times it seems fragile, like on the soft, sprawling “Reappear,” shimmering above waves of reverb, but that’s an illusion – Deheza has never sounded as confident yet so tempestuous, more in touch with what she’s singing than ever before. School of Seven Bells have always tended to focus on the trees rather than the forest – as a result, the music they crafted was, more often than not, opulent but uncomfortably empty, something beautiful that could be admired but never touched. Opener “The Night” swiftly puts that notion to sleep: “our meeting lit a fuse in my heart / devoured me, devoured me,” Deheza sings, and it’s lovely and airy, as she always is, yet there’s a passion and a sensuality here that has been hard to find with this band.

The music seems effortless, which is an accomplishment in itself given just how complicated School of Seven Bells makes things. There’s a veritable blizzard of effects here, washing tones out while they brighten others, coalescing in misty bursts of guitar and mesmerizing drum attacks, a steady, mutating bass line bubbling constantly underneath. Benjamin Curtis’ former work as a member of The Secret Machines informs every aspect of the production here – that space-rock trio specialized in widescreen, full surround sound operas, the proggiest of the prog. That love of expanse, of wide open sound filling every space and constant shifts into lulls and crescendos, is what defines Ghostory. Deheza’s vocals are the driving force, of course, but the way Curtis makes the music dive into your headphones – at points rolling to an ecstatic high on the frantic “White Wind,” at others reducing things to a narcotic lull on “Show Me Love” – is pure feeling. There’s a heavy goth influence on things here, even as sparkling and lush as the production gets, and the drone of Cocteau Twins and the haunting new wave of Siouxsie and the Banshees, not to mention the hazy landscapes of My Bloody Valentine, are much in evidence throughout. Atmosphere is the priority here, yet it’s a testament to Curtis’ work and Deheza’s renewed fire that the songs on Ghostory stand well enough on their own. “The Night” might be the best track the duo have penned to date, concise by their own standards yet voluminous in its sound, with a hook that is as compelling as any in the band’s catalog. “Lafaye,” meanwhile, is haunting and vaguely foreboding; its melody calls to mind Florence’s “What The Water Gave Me,” but its chorus and the unexpected tonal shift are, simply put, enchanting.

It’s hard to explain what kind of emotions these songs engender, and I can imagine it will be different for everyone – that’s the beauty of this kind of dreamy canvas, where the words are much less important than the spirit of the vocals and the nebulous music. There’s the general ghost story conceit, of course, but that’s as much a smokescreen as it is a real narrative. At times I hear Alejandra talking to her twin, and there’s loss and regret, while at others, most noticeably the triumphant closer “When You Sing,” there is a simple catharsis, the culmination of a relentless drum pattern and a blizzard of instruments, not the least of which is Deheza’s vocals spinning wondrously out into a psychedelic haze. It reminds me a bit of M83’s latest, where lyrics were second to the vital, intense feelings the music offered up. It’s also incredibly hard to pin down without resorting to an embarrassing array of adjectives and metaphors. Dream pop, goth, shoegaze – call it what you want, but what School of Seven Bells have ended up with is a genuinely gorgeous record by any standard.

School of Seven Bells – “Lafaye”

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Release date February 28, 2012.

Wye Oak – Two Small Deaths

By , March 3, 2011 8:00 am

Wye Oak is a boy-girl duo in the Matt & Kim vein, if Matt & Kim were content to write dreamy, folk-rock with some shoegaze and dream pop influence with zero Top 40 potential. Their third album Civilian drops next week, and it’s utterly relaxing and serene, reminding me a bit of Beach House (helps that Jenn Wasner sounds a bit like Victoria from Beach House). Fun fact: other half Andy Stack plays the drums with his feet and right hand while his left plunks out a bass line on the keyboards. Baller.

Wye Oak – “Two Small Deaths”


Galaxie 500 – On Fire

By , August 15, 2010 8:00 am

Galaxie 500 – On Fire

Rough Trade 1989

Rating: 10/10

There’s barely a second that goes by on Galaxie 500’s On Fire without Dean Wareham begging love lost just one more chance, but it’s “Where Will You Come Home” that really sticks out for me. “When will you come home? / watching TV all alone, watching Kojak on my own,” he wails with his eyes potentially closed, but through all the radiating passion I’m left wondering: is this just time passing by a commercial break? Whoever Wareham’s ex is, his high-pitched mopes try and try to convey the blues she’s given him, but he sends her (and all of us) one better – yep, On Fire is an album that couldn’t be without melodrama. Melodrama sets it all alight.

Even if this isn’t true, On Fire succeeds on a similar feeling, a contradiction of terms that makes Wareham sound like he needs the agony more than he needs it cured. It’s a record about romantic things gone the wrong way: a shitty date, a weird acid trip, a sad night alone or even the frolics at the end of the world. Each song exists on its hunger for this darn-shame sadness, and the band accepts this feeling. At times Wareham seems aware of how trivial he is being, side-stepping his problems with silly anecdotes- “I stood in line and ate my twinkies / I stood in line I had to wait” when he’s drugged up; “you said / can I bring my guitar?” when he leaves the planet. Wareham doesn’t patronise us and give us life-lessons on love and pain – hell, even on his band’s tearful cover of “Isn’t It a Pity” he stops short of this – he just shares it with us, he makes a day of it. In fact, his George Harrison rendition sums it up with a grin. Sucks, doesn’t it?

The synchronisation couldn’t be better. The music and emotional weight of On Fireshare a mutual understanding, with the flattened out guitar play reserved when Wareham sets his dull, plodding scene and the blistering solos temperamental when he enters it. That in itself summarises all ten of the album, each explosion of instruments set to its weepy conductor; when he has his serious face on, the music makes us frown as much as he does (“Isn’t It A Pity,” or “Snowstorm”) and when he’s light-headed his band mates respond, just as they do on the glum hoedown that goes on in “Leave The Planet,” the band reverting to an out of tune harmonica to fend off the apocalypse. It’s silly, but serious and touching in the same blow, and in a sense Wareham and co. smooth over their melodrama with something more realistic. The music is realistic, in a way- there are times when Wareham is each feeling he has, and these simple guitar chords deafen us and mellow out when the time is right.

This is my favourite dream pop record out there because, quite simply, nobody is shoving it down your throat. On Fire plays out with only half a heart, spacing out Wareham’s passion as if it were for no one other than him. He repeats himself like he’s the only guy that matters and to hell with bigger problems, but still I can share in every moment of this, even without being told to. It’s immersing at every turn, playing out with the best kind of music- that which reflects mood. Most importantly though, Wareham shows us what we’re all too fond of. He knows melodrama makes us tick, that we’ll use this beautiful On Fire record and make it all about our foolish selves when really it’s just another rock record. I’ve never watched Kojak, though, so take one off five hundred.

Galaxie 500 – “Isn’t It A Pity?”

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Release date April 29, 1997.

School of Seven Bells – Windstorm

By , July 8, 2010 8:00 am

“Windstorm” is the opening track from School of Seven Bells‘ sophomore record, Disconnected From Desire, which drops next week. It’s spacey, 80s-influenced dream pop from Benjamin Curtis (formerly of space-rockers Secret Machines) and identical twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza. Wispy female vocals, crisp melodies, ethereal sounds – pretty well-done dream pop, in other words. We’ll see how a whole album of it works out…

School of Seven Bells – “Windstorm”

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