Continuing the advice of my friend, I really took a summer holiday from blogging – after over two years without an extended break it was very welcomed. The reality is that it is difficult to dedicate time to writing when the weather is so beautiful; conversely, during a hurricane, it is just as difficult to want to write. But one thing I am always doing is listening to (new) music.
Listening to Dream Affair’s debut album, “Endless Days” (25 May 2011), reminded me of one of the most important facts about what makes good music. A bit out of practice, I have been trying to type this up for a few hours, cursing what I thought to be writer’s block for my lack of progress. Here are some of my false starts: “Euphorically sad,” “Coldwave lives on in Brooklyn,” “Broody, dark, danceable,” “Ambience is best achieved with simplicity,” “Drum machines and guitars … one of my favorite combinations!” The problem was that I could never articulate the following line, because I was not ready to articulate the given. What makes good music is good songwriting, and “Endless Days” is the perfect example of this. You may not get the most virtuoso moments, nor will you get vocal moments that will make the hairs on the nape of your neck stand, but what you do get is a collection of songs that is spot on! Written as coldwave, the band not only understands this tradition completely, they understand their audience in 2011. True to form, infused with current indie trends, what speaks here is the actual music.
If pressed to come up with one word with how I feel as I listen to the album, it would be “Drifting” – the title of the third track on the album. From the alternating male and female vocals in the chorus to the not-so-subtle switch between the verse and chorus, you are either gently fluttering through air or crashing at ungodly speeds. Dream Affair understands that the music itself, not just the lyrics and vocal arrangements, has to be dramatic – in this sense, they are similar to Siouxsie and the Banshees, Eurythmcis, and Xymox. And though the album as a whole could be labeled as “coldwave,” the sense of drama that is pervasive through the album has Dream Affair borrowing techniques from other genres: “Apology” borrows heavily from the “goth” tradition of post-punk – think of the proto-industrial style of music.
Like many of their Brooklyn brethren, Dream Affair does not breathe New York City … or American for that matter. Easily comparable to The Exploding Boy (Sweden) or Manicure (Russia), this is essentially British post-punk with the occasional flair of continental influence. The titular track, again incorporating proto-industrial, reminds me of a lot of music coming out of France and Germany, while tracks like “Parting” remind me completely of how a young Bauhaus or The Cure would put a short ambient piece together – though this song has all the makings of an epic, perhaps live! The stand out track is “Lucid.” With its electro bass sounds, sinister ambient keys, French spoken in the background, and it’s matter of fact female vocal arrangements, it is the most sensually seductive song on the album.
My favorite track on the album is “Silent Story.” I can instantly imagine someone who is familiar with post-punk listening to this song and swearing they have heard it before. Of course, it is not the song that they have heard before, but rather that they are familiar with this post-punk archetype. A savvy pop song, laden with electro-percussion claps, bordering somewhere between rock and dance, it is the kind of song that simply has a broad appeal. And that is where we return to the beginning … it is about strong songwriting. Whether or not music is full of production gimmicks or not, virtuoso moments or not, musical or lyrical tropes or not, it comes down to the ability of the band to write a song that is captivating. Dream Affair’s “Endless Days” is nine songs that are infectious, harkening back to the dreariness of a past generation to produce music that is venomously addictive to a contemporary audience!
1. Endless Days
2. Silent Story
7. No Use Hiding
8. Until the Fall
Keep up with Dream Affair at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook. Feel free to head over to the Bandcamp pages for Dream Affair and Avant! Records, where you can preview and purchase their music.
Here is their video for “Endless Days” from the Justin Anderson Viemo Channel.