February 16, 2023

Picturesque by MOLLY is a Dream


Since the 1980s, when both Dream Pop and Shoegaze appeared, the two genres have often been confused with each other. More accurately, it’s not always clear why one band or other was called shoegaze and another dream pop. To me, the defining element of shoegaze is the wall of distortion created over pop vocals. That distortion is intentionally abrasive, with a sound like a buzz saw or drill. Dream pop, on the other hand, is all about the shimmering guitars coupled with ethereal, dreamy vocals. The distinction between dream pop and shoegaze is, in essence, the difference between the Cocteau Twins and the Jesus and Mary Chain. One is pastoral and imaginative, the other droning, unbearably loud, and intentionally harsh.

Complicating these classifications is that many bands skirt both genres. Lush is a prime example of a band that could be seen as dream pop or shoegaze depending on the album or even the song. Categorization into a genre, however, is just a convenient shorthand to describe a band’s sound. It’s a quick identifier for “might I like this or not?” type decisions. For much of music history, buying an album cost money and no one wanted to waste their precious lucre on sound they didn’t enjoy. In the era of all you can eat streaming services, I’m not sure if it matters anymore. You can taste test endlessly.

Which brings us to Austria’s MOLLY and their latest album Picturesque. As I listen to this, their second album, I can’t help feeling like this is pure, sweet dream pop with perhaps a small touch of new age. Starting with the opening track, “Ballerina”, you get those signature shimmering guitars flooding the background while sweet vocals swoop in, seemingly from some celestial sphere, to produce four minutes of pure bliss. After that the music turns at times epic (the twelve and half minute “Metamorphosis”), retro (“The Golden Age”), and minimalist (“The Lot”). Throughout there are shades of Lush, Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, and even Enya. It is lush, beautiful, and most of all ethereal.

Their Bandcamp page describes them as celestial shoegaze. I see the celestial part but shoegaze? No. the overall mood is more dreamy than noise. It lacks that growling, almost painful, buzz of shoegaze. Picturesque has the purity of dream pop and none of the confrontation of shoegaze.

If you want to call it shoegaze, heck if they want to call it shoegaze, who cares? It’s a wonderful album full of gorgeous music. What you call it hardly matters just so long as you listen to it.