Lying on a soft bed, eyelids growing heavy, the lovers close in on each other as the world around begins to slow down. Noises stop racing through the brain, exiting the mind. Time and space become weightlessly warped, contorted, and it all feels warmly comforting — if there is any genre of music that best encapsulates the sentiment of slipping into unconscious relaxation, it would be dream pop.
Even though this ethereal subgenre of alternative rock and neo-psychedelia music is believed to have first been coined by Alex Ayuli of the musical duo A.R. Kane in the late 1980s to describe the sound of their sedated jazzy psychedelic tunes, the stylistic origins of dream pop can be traced back even further. Always ahead of their time, art-rock collective The Velvet Underground was novel in their experimentation with music. Unique sounds and timbres were just as the forefront, if not more, as the melodies. These are important tenets of dream-pop: a focus on creating a sonically diverse texture amongst all other aspects. Although very rudimentarily relative to modern dream pop, 1967’s “The Velvet Underground & Nico” by The Velvet Underground is always a good listen to get the basics of the genre.
Prolific music producers such as Brian Eno and Phil Spector have also been including atmospheric tones into their works with Eno working on projects with David Bowie and Talking Heads and Spector producing with George Harrison since the 1970s. The 1990s, however, is where dream pop really made a name for itself. “Heaven or Las Vegas” by Cocteau Twins was released in 1990 and charted on both the UK Albums Chart and US Billboard 200. Hypnotic, wistful, and introspective, “Heaven or Las Vegas” is a warm invitation to an imaginative pop affair.
Other notable dream pop albums of the ’90s are Mazzy Star’s “So Tonight That I Might See”, whose single “Fade Into You” became an alternative classic in 1993. Earlier that same year, Slowdive released “Souvlaki”, an album that speaks to the youthful attitude juxtaposed with the more abrasive grunge rock movement going on at the time. ’91 saw the Irish shoegaze band, My Bloody Valentine, come out with “Loveless”. It may sound bizarre on first listen as it has a more volatile sound than other dream-pop albums, but nonetheless “Loveless” is a seminal work that is heralded as one of the greatest alternative albums of all time.
Many artists have incorporated dream pop into their sound repertoire today. Familiar names such as Lorde, Lana Del Rey, Grimes, and even Dua Lipa have some semblance of dream pop in their music. Other than those artists, there are plenty of other contemporary recommendations. The xx’s self-titled album “xx” takes influences from R&B for a stylish late-night type of listen. Deerhunter’s “Halcyon Digest” is trippy, and the track “Helicopter” is an especially hypnotic experience. “Teen Dream” and “Bloom” by Beach House are both happier alternatives to the darker themes explored on “Halycon Digest”. “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” by M83 contains the ever-prominent song “Midnight City” alongside other sparkling bops. Finally, “Night Time, My Time” by Sky Ferreira is also worth a listen for a more emotional time.
After a busy day of work or study, it’s always nice to relax and dive into some dream pop. For a decade where alternative music has seen a shift towards a neo-psychedelic sound, dream pop is a genre that has not only stuck around but influenced many acts today.