2022 Catch Up: Shoegaze/Dream Pop Edition

I’m not listening to music as intensely as some previous years, and I’m not really interested in writing long essays about albums much anymore, but I still thought I’d drop in and share some favorites from 2022 so far. I’ve somewhat arbitrarily chopped it into different segments of my taste pie chart so I’m not randomly dropping a ton of different artists at once, which would maybe be overwhelming for anyone who is still checking this out for some reason. Let’s start in one of my main wheelhouses: the general noisy/dreamy/psychedelic umbrella.

Melody’s Echo Chamber – Emotional Eternal

This is Melody Prochet’s third album, following the standard dream pop of her 2012 self-titled debut and 2018’s delightfully bonkers Bon Voyage, which I felt was one of the best psychedelic albums of the last decade. Emotional Eternal nestles somewhere in between these two extremes; it’s more coherent like the debut while maintaining some of the whimsical charm and experimentation of Bon Voyage. She couldn’t really out-crazy that album, so I like this landing point for Emotional Eternal and its mix of heart, quirks, and prettiness.

Mo Dotti – Guided Imagery

This L.A. band got on my radar with 2020’s Blurring EP; Guided Imagery is a solid step forward that sees them focusing more on the poppier side of shoegaze. “Loser Smile” is a stand-out jam single with the crunchy guitars and heavenly harmonies, and their cover of the Stephin Merritt/Mary Timony song “All Dressed Up in Dreams” is a jangly gem that adds some polish and more dreaminess to the source material.

Widowspeak – The Jacket

Widowspeak has been a staple of the blog, and I’ve gone on laboriously about how I think they’re great and it feels like other outlets just shrug at their albums now or ignore them entirely. The Jacket is pretty much what I expect from them now: it’s thoughtful, sounds great, and is comforting and familiar without feeling like the band is just running in place. This kind of subtle evolution/refinement doesn’t seem to play well when it comes to hyping up a band, but I feel like a lot of people would love this album if they gave it a shot.

Dummy – Mono Retriever

If you are at all pre-disposed to the kind of music in this post, Dummy’s first full-length Mandatory Enjoyment was either one of your favorite albums of the year or you didn’t hear about it. I cannot fathom any fan of Stereolab, My Bloody Valentine, and all the usual suspects not being in love with this band. Over this little two-song single, the band shows their whole range of influences and their ability to filter them into a style that is familiar while still being original. “Mono Retriever” is the more upbeat krautrock pop piece and “Pepsi Vacuum” shows their meditative, dreamy side before closing out with some beautiful noise blasts.

Papercuts – Past Life Regression

This is the first album I’ve heard from Jason Quever, who has been around for quite a few years now. Even without reading a Bandcamp bio, it’s evident from the refined, confident style of Past Life Regression. This is super smooth, sharply written jangle pop that is reminiscent of 60s bands like The Byrds while incorporating bits from 90s and current shoegaze groups. Pretty much every flavor of jangly/dreamy/noisy pop is present across this album, and it’s all executed to near perfection.

Healees – Healees

This international group based in France is working in about the same space as Papercuts, with the loud jangly guitars along with solid songwriting. The lead track, “Any Day,” is a shimmering slice of guitar pop, and the rest of this 25-minute release mostly follows its lead, focusing on melancholy hooks and soaring harmonies.

#25: Best Coast – “California Nights”

California Nights is the smartest stupid album of the year. After a few albums of lo-fi bedroom pop that never quite felt sincere to me, this is the album where Best Coast finally become what they were destined to be: a big, dumb, slick rock band, like Oasis if they loved California as much as the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“Stupid” and “dumb” aren’t usually adjectives used for praise, but there is an appeal to how California Nights completely foregoes any attempt at intellectualism or depth, and instead focuses on crafting anthemic pop songs that just sound good. It’s a smart decision that plays to the band’s strengths while making you forget about their weaknesses. Freed from the self-imposed lo-fi constraints of their past music, Bethany Cosentino’s singing and melodies soar higher while Bobb Bruno’s guitar benefits from the extra polish, evoking the California-landscape-at-sunset feelings the band has always gone for.

The bigger sound and added production values likely alienated some of Best Coast’s original fans, and music critics weren’t too keen on it either. But I think California Nights is the sound of a band finally figuring out who they are and embracing it.

The 2015 Year-End Extravaganza

Twitter has roped me back into making year-end lists, so I’ve made a list of my top 25 favorite albums of the year. The problem is figuring out how to share it, since I know the world desperately needs to read it and I’d frankly be doing mankind a disservice if I didn’t publish it in some form. I don’t want that on my conscience.

I started writing the typical end of year list post with every album, and then a short blurb about it and why I liked it, but I found it very constricting. I felt compelled to keep each blurb a reasonable length so the final post wouldn’t be a total word-bomb. I also like to link to music I’m writing about, since just listening is more effective than words at describing the sound, but was worried about making people’s computers or phones explode with that many youtube embeds on one page.

So, this is my solution: starting probably tomorrow, I’m going to roll out the list gradually, with each album getting its own post. Most of them will still be short, since I surprisingly don’t have article-worthy opinions about literally every album I listen to. But it does give me the freedom to go a bit longer and deeper if I have something to say or think the album warrants it. I think this will give me more freedom with the writing and allow me to do more justice to these albums, which I think deserve better than a dashed-off two sentence blurb. It also allows me to flood people’s social media timelines, which is one of the most enjoyable things about being a writer.

Stay tuned.