Dream Pop is a musical subgenre that derived from Alternative Rock in the 1980’s. The term Dream Pop is often used interchangeably with ‘Shoegazing,’ a very similar style, named so because of the tendency for band members of these groups to play, immersed in their music with their heads down. The genre is primarily focused on the creation of atmosphere and the texture of the song, rather than the typical focus on melody; however, both aspects are important to the genre. Subsequently, the music produced possesses a ‘dream-like’ quality.
Instruments used were standard for pop/rock genres. Guitars, vocals, keys and drums were the main components, drum machines often doing the work of actual drummers with kits. Guitars were very often played with heavy distortion, and created drones, which is contrast to Rock music with its prominent and catchy guitar riffs that it relied on for success. Most commonly, Dream Pop would use two guitars with distortions at the same time so as to create an ambiguous sound, due to the blending of the two guitars. Vocals were not often very central, and were usually quite muted and ‘subdued’ in nature, both in tonality and volume. Breathy vocals were favoured over strong, well -articulated vocal lines. Keys such as pianos or keyboards would typically be the source of the melodies of the songs, and there would often be many layers of melodies, adding to the atmosphere when combined with the indistinguishable guitar sounds.
The use of drum machines by some bands lead to criticism, as some said it did not enhance the sound, but rather made the music sound too artificial and man-made, therefore actually inhibiting the dream like ambience. As such, subsequent derivative genres generally had drummers with kits instead of suing machines, especially with stage shows.
Lyrically, Dream Pop is a sophisticated genre, particularly when compared with its standard pop counterpart. Themes include a wide range, and can be very introspective, exploring ideas regarding emotions and identity; essentially the human condition. Equally, drawing from this, existentialism was a key idea, wherein songs discussed the concept that humanity itself was a ‘philosophical problem.’
Dream Pop as a genre has never received that much acclaim, and is often an over-looked style of music, sometimes receiving criticism for its odd textures, such as vocals playing such a small role, and also for its sometimes generated feel, from the incorporation of drum machines for example. Despite this, many successful artists gave arisen from this genre, such as ‘Bat for Lashes, the ‘Cocteau Twins,’ and ‘The Cranberries,’ and perhaps the most famous of all, ‘The Verve,’ to name a few.
Overall, I think Dream Pop is an interesting genre, largely down to its textural differences, wherein it plays with using typically less prominent instruments as focal points, and also due to the lyrical content, exploring the nature of humanity, something which most genres do not explore.