Dream pop

Dream pop (also typeset as dreampop)[7] is a subgenre of alternative rock[1] and neo-psychedelia[3] that is characterized by its preoccupation with sonic texture and atmosphere as much as melody, including characteristics such as breathy vocals, use of guitar effects, and dense productions. It often overlaps with the related genre of shoegaze, and the two genre terms have at times been used interchangeably.[8]

The genre came into prominence in the 1980s, through the work of Cocteau Twins, A.R. Kane, and their contemporaries. Following the emergence of shoegaze, ambient pop developed as a variant of dream pop that incorporates electronic textures.


Dream pop is thought to relate to the "immersion" in the music experienced by the listener.[9] The AllMusic Guide to Electronica (2003) defined dream pop as "an atmospheric subgenre of alternative rock that relies on sonic textures as much as melody".[10] Common characteristics are breathy vocals, the use of guitar effects, and a densely produced sound.[10][3] The music tends to focus on textures and moods rather than propulsive rock riffs.[11] Lyrics are often introspective or existential in nature.[11] In the view of Simon Reynolds, dream pop "celebrates rapturous and transcendent experiences, often using druggy and mystical imagery".[3] According to Rachel Felder, dream pop artists often resist representations of social reality in favour of ambiguous or hallucinogenic experiences.[12]


1960s–1970s: OriginsEdit

Author Nathan Wiseman-Trowse explained that the "approach to the sheer physicality of sound" integral to dream pop was "arguably pioneered in popular music by figures such as Phil Spector and Brian Wilson".[12] George Harrison's 1970 album All Things Must Pass, with its Spector-produced Wall of Sound and fluid arrangements, led music journalist John Bergstrom to credit it as a progenitor of the genre.[13] Musician Tessa Violet referred to the Beach Boys' 1970 song "All I Wanna Do" as the "OG dream pop anthem".[14] The music of the Velvet Underground in the 1960s and 1970s, which experimented with repetition, tone, and texture over conventional song structure, was also an important touchstone in the genre's development.[12]

1980s: Development and shoegazing sceneEdit

Rolling Stone's Kory Grow described "modern dream pop" as originating with the early 1980s work of Cocteau Twins and their contemporaries,[15] while PopMatters' AJ Ramirez noted an evolutionary line from gothic rock to dream pop.[2] Grow considered Julee Cruise's 1989 album Floating into the Night, written and produced by David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, as a significant development of the dream pop sound which "gave the genre its synthy sheen."[15]

The term "dream pop" was coined by Alex Ayuli of A.R. Kane, who used the phrase in the late 1980s to describe his band's sound, which combined distorted guitar, dub production, and drum machines.[16] The label was subsequently adopted by music critic Simon Reynolds to describe A.R. Kane[17] and later extended to the nascent shoegazing scene in the UK.[3] In the 1990s, "dream pop" and "shoegazing" were interchangeable and regionally dependent terms, with "dream pop" being the name by which "shoegazing" was typically known in America.[18] Reynolds had described dream pop bands as "a wave of hazy neo-psychedelic groups", noting the influence of the "ethereal soundscapes" of bands such as Cocteau Twins.[3]

1990s–present: Influence and continued interestEdit

The late 1980s dream pop of A.R. Kane and My Bloody Valentine influences various 1990s acts such as Seefeel and Insides,[19] who were drawn to techno and began utilizing elements such as samples and sequenced rhythms.[20] Ambient pop music was described by AllMusic as "essentially an extension of the dream pop that emerged in the wake of the shoegazer movement", distinct for its incorporation of electronic textures.[6]

Much of the music associated with the 2009-coined term "chillwave" could be considered dream pop.[7] In the opinion of Grantland's David Schilling, when "chillwave" was popularized, the discussion that followed among music journalists and bloggers revealed that labels such as "shoegaze" and "dream pop" were ultimately "arbitrary and meaningless".[21]

List of artistsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Anon (n.d.). "Dream Pop". AllMusic.
  2. ^ a b Ramirez, AJ (31 October 2009). ""Bela Lugosi's Dead": 30 Years of Goth, Gloom, and Post-Post-Punk". PopMatters. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Reynolds, Simon (1 December 1991), "Pop View; 'Dream-Pop' Bands Define the Times in Britain", The New York Times, retrieved 7 March 2010
  4. ^ Nathaniel Wice / Steven Daly: "The dream pop bands were lionized by the capricious British music press, which later took to dismissing them as "shoegazers" for their affectless stage presence.", Alt. Culture: An A-To-Z Guide to the '90s-Underground, Online, and Over-The-Counter, p.73, HarperCollins Publishers 1995, ISBN 0-0627-3383-4
  5. ^ Weiss, Dan (6 July 2012). "Slutwave, Tumblr Rap, Rape Gaze: Obscure Musical Genres Explained". LA Weekly.
  6. ^ a b "Ambient Pop". AllMusic.
  7. ^ a b Abebe, Nitsuh (22 July 2011). "Chillin' in Plain Sight". Pitchfork.
  8. ^ The 30 Best Dream Pop Albums|Pitchfork
  9. ^ Goddard, Michael et al (2013) Resonances: Noise and Contemporary Music, Bloomsbury Academic, ISBN 978-1-4411-5937-3
  10. ^ a b Bogdanov, Vladimir (2001). The AllMusic Guide to Electronica, Backbeat UK, ISBN 978-0-87930-628-1, p. ix.
  11. ^ a b Bogdanov, Vladimir (2001). All Music Guide to Electronica: The Definitive Guide to Electronic Music (4th ed.). Backbeat Books. pp. ix. ISBN 978-0-87930-628-1.
  12. ^ a b c Wiseman-Trowse, Nathan (30 September 2008). Performing Class in British Popular Music. Springer. pp. 148–154.
  13. ^ Bergstrom, John (14 January 2011). "George Harrison: All Things Must Pass". PopMatters. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  14. ^ "Violet's 'tracks to listen to on tour' playlist, feat. Spinn, Kylie, Swim Deep and more". Dork. 16 May 2019.
  15. ^ a b Grow, Kory (25 July 2014). "Dream Team: The Semi-Mysterious Story Behind the Music of 'Twin Peaks'". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  16. ^ King, Richard (2012). How Soon is Now?: The Madmen and Mavericks who made Independent Music 1975-2005. Faber & Faber. p. 206. ISBN 978-0-571-27832-9.
  17. ^ Reynolds, Simon. "A.R. Kane features 1987-2012". Reynoldsretro.blogpsot.com. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  18. ^ Tyler, Kieron (17 January 2016). "Reissue CDs Weekly: Still in a Dream - A Story of Shoegaze". The Arts Desk.
  19. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2011). Bring the Noise: 20 Years Writing About Hip Rock and Hip Hop. Soft Skull. p. 190.
  20. ^ Reynolds, Simon (1994), Quique - Seefeel review, Spin
  21. ^ Schilling, Dave (8 April 2015). "That Was a Thing: The Brief History of the Totally Made-Up Chillwave Music Genre". Grantland.com.