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.
Dream pop is thought to relate to the "immersion" in the music experienced by the listener. The term "dream pop" is credited to Alex Ayuli of A.R. Kane, who used the phrase to describe the band's sound. It was subsequently adopted by music critic Simon 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 typically known in America.
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". Common characteristics are breathy vocals, the use of guitar effects, and a densely produced sound. The music tends to focus on textures and moods rather than propulsive rock riffs. Lyrics are often introspective or existential in nature. In the view of 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 favour of ambiguous or hallucinogenic experiences.
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". The music of the Velvet Underground, which experimented with repetition, tone, and texture over conventional song structure, was also an important touchstone in the genre's development.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.
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 Stones Kory Grow described "modern dream pop" as originating with the early 1980s work of Cocteau Twins and their contemporaries, while PopMatters AJ Ramirez noted an evolutionary line from gothic rock to dream pop. 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."
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.
Much of the music associated with the 2009-coined term "chillwave" could be considered dream pop. In the opinion of Grantlands 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".