Dream pop (or dreampop) is a subgenre of alternative rock and neo-psychedelia that developed in the 1980s. The style is typified by a preoccupation with sonic texture and atmosphere as much as melody. It often overlaps with the related genre of shoegazing, and the two genre terms have at times been used interchangeably.
The AllMusic Guide to Electronica defined dream pop as "an atmospheric subgenre of alternative rock that relies on sonic textures as much as melody". Common characteristics are breathy vocals and use of guitar effects, often producing a wall of sound. Dream pop tends to focus on textures and moods rather than propulsive rock riffs. Lyrics are often introspective or existential in nature. In the view of music critic Simon Reynolds, dream pop "celebrates rapturous and transcendent experiences, often using druggy and mystical imagery". According to Rachel Felder, dream pop artists often resist representations of social reality in favor of ambiguous or hallucinogenic experiences.
The term "dream pop", which is thought to relate to the "immersion" in the music experienced by the listener, was coined in the late 1980s by Alex Ayuli to describe the music of his band A.R. Kane. It was later adopted by Reynolds to describe the nascent shoegazing scene in the UK. In the 1990s, "dream pop" and "shoegazing" were interchangeable and regionally dependent terms, with "dream pop" being the name by which "shoegazing" was often known in America.
Reynolds 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.Rolling Stone also described dream pop as originating with the early 1980s work of Cocteau Twins and their contemporaries.PopMatters noted an evolutionary line from gothic rock to dream pop.Rolling Stone considered Julee Cruise's 1989 album Floating into the Night, written and produced with David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, as a significant development of the dream pop sound which "gave the genre its synthy sheen."
In the early 1990s, some dream pop acts influenced by My Bloody Valentine, such as Seefeel, were drawn to techno and began utilizing elements such as samples and sequenced rhythms.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.
According to N. Wiseman-Trowse, the music of the Velvet Underground, which experimented with repetition, tone, and texture over conventional song structure, was an important touchstone in the development of dream pop.George Harrison's 1970 album All Things Must Pass, with its Wall of Sound and fluid arrangements, led music journalist John Bergstrom to credit it as an influence on dream pop.