Don’t wake me, I’m living in a goddamn day dream, nothing ever lasts as long as you want it to, as long as I’m next to you. I’m feeling like the sun never sets, that summer was endless…– Heaven is a Place in My Head, Bad Suns
Guess who no longer hates July for a really dumb reason?? Lol if only 2020 Kelly could see me now, she’d be confused and jealous.
It’s safe for me to say that I’m feeling like I’m on cloud 9 right now. Between networking with the incomparable Joe from TikTok (who has been giving me great feedback on how to scale this blog) and getting news that I’m starting a new job with an incredible company in the music industry this month, it feels like so many dreams are within reach. Like God was literally listening to my prayers and preparing these doors to open.
I’ve had a really dreamy start to the year and it feels like it’s been kicked into overdrive in the last month. So, what better way than to lean into it through music?
Dream pop has probably been my favorite genre this year so far. There’s something so comforting about it, but also incredibly complex. Kinda describes 2021 for me in the best way. Consider this my mid-year check in/best explanation I can give of dream pop.
2021 has had a lot going on. I spent the beginning of this year seeking healing by learning to value my dreams and ambitions. I leaned into my love for music and songwriting and reminded myself just how romantic I really am. By the time spring was blooming, I found myself hitting the pavement on some really exciting projects: I volunteered at vaccination sites while working part time for a community organizer, I started getting excited about SOUNDS LIKE FEELS LIKE again, and I opened myself up to new network connections by telling them my dreams and ambitions that I had finally begun to take seriously. I went from using my dreams to escape reality to now escaping into my dreams that are becoming reality. Crazy right?
Dream pop is kind of like that. It’s spacey and nostalgic yet there’s an almost hypnotic quality to it. You kind of get lost in a daydream while listening and in my experience, you get caught off guard when the song is over. Another interesting thing I’ve experienced while listening is that as blissful as the music sounds, there’s almost a sadness in the vocals or in the words, as if the singer knows the dream only lasts for so long.
Yet at the same time, there’s a lot of intentionality behind every lyric, every instrument, every creative choice in it. You could say it was all orchestrated from the beginning, providing a clear space to get lost.
Some typical sonic characteristics of dream pop include synths, breathy vocals, an emphasis on melody, guitars with a lot of reverb, and lyrics that paint vivid pictures. It started in the 80s and was pioneered by bands like The Cocteau Twins and The Cure. We’ll get into it a little more in the highlights section!
So, I don’t know if I’m the only one looking for an escape to make sense of all the amazing/insane things going on in my life but I’ve made a dream pop playlist with songs that just feel right for right now. Hopefully you now have a better idea of dream pop for your own exploration!
A special thanks to my pal Aric Crowell for his song recommendation!
Heaven is a Place in My Head – Bad Suns
Of course I’m going rave about Bad Suns for a second, it’s been a while since I’ve done that here. The way this song was released June 1st and all these cool things started happening in my life after that feels like proof that Bad Suns have magic in their music. This is a bonafide summer anthem — 80s synths, guitar solos, lyrics about summer never lasting as long as you want it to. I mean how are y’all literally writing the soundtrack of my life?
Cherry-Coloured Funk – The Cocteau Twins
We cannot talk about dream pop without talking about The Cocteau Twins, who basically invented this musical style. This song is somehow both earthy and ethereal. There’s a swirling synth, a driving and hypnotic guitar, and a steady drum. The lead singer of the Cocteau Twins, Elizabeth Fraser, switches between a lower register in the verse and a beautiful falsetto for the chorus. It’s just gorgeous.
Wake Me – Bleachers
I really need to do a post explaining my love and respect for the musical genius that is Jack Antonoff. Yes, he’s responsible for Taylor’s pop directions, Lorde’s era-defining anthems, and Lana Del Rey’s hypnotic soundscapes but his solo work as Bleachers is just as iconic. This song feels like driving down Pacific Coast Highway with the love of your life. It has a surf rock tinge to it, which makes it feel very California. I’m qualified to say that because I’m a native.
Only in My Dreams – The Marías
This band has dreamy music down to an art and a science. Lead singer María Zardoya has such a bold softness in her voice and it’s complemented by the band’s mix of genres like jazz, shoegaze, and Latin music. They capture the dream pop vibe so well I had to include two songs from them. They just released an album and I’ve been vibing to it all week. Gotta love LA-based bands….also, yes they are pals with Bad Suns.
Fade Into You – Mazzy Star
This is one of those songs that I definitely had heard a million times before but took so long to memorize who sings it and what it’s called. From the very little I know about Mazzy Star and their lead singer, Hope Sandoval (another fellow Latina in dream pop!), they really capture the nonchalant musical spirit of the 90s. I can tell this song inspired an entire generation of female singer-songwriters in the way it so beautifully paints pictures of love. This song is so delicate and yet so yearning, like you’re dancing with your soulmate for the first time.
What’s your favorite dream pop song?