“Dream pop” is a term that gets slapped on any act that incorporates ambient elements or lets instruments obscure the vocals. I can understand the urge to label some music thus, especially where it applies to Asobi Seksu. It’s been called dream pop because it is pleasant and airy, like a good dream. But if we consider the bands who first inspired the term, we’re reminded that all dreams aren’t necessarily good ones.
Anyone who says Hush, Asobi Seksu’s third record, isn’t a pleasant listen is either lying or deaf. It feels similar to the stereotypical calm of Eastern culture. As far as listening experiences go, you can certainly do a lot worse than sitting back in your chair, being consistently affected by Asobi Seksu’s sunlit wandering. Unfortunately, it would probably be better for Hush if the band stepped into the shadows every once in a while.
Cocteau Twins is the band most strongly associated with the term dream pop, and besides embracing every type of sonic oddity, their albums were definitely nice, airy affairs; however, the dreams in their “pop” weren’t always pleasant ones. In each of their best albums, you found a band pushing itself to mine the angry and despairing as well as the idyllic, and it made all of the songs better for it. Hush doesn’t have that. It’s just one long walk in the park. No hurt stabs through the sweetness, and the listener rides a vaguely pleasant glaze until the album’s close. The closest Asobi Seksu ever comes to straying off the path is the pretty good “Me & Mary,” which strikes the petulant and fitful more truly than it does any kind of strong discontent.
The members of Asobi Seksu know how to write songs — warm, resonant and sentiment-filled. That’s a serious achievement in itself. Now they just need to look around Eden until they see a darkness, and go toward it.