After a recent deep listen to Possessions, by El Paso’s Blushing, I found myself thoroughly falling into a rabbit hole of Reddit, blog, and social media discussions and debates on the complex history of shoegaze and dream pop: Didn’t the terms used to be interchangeable? If they diverged, when? Which bands are shoegaze and which ones are modern dream pop? It was a fascinating exploration of opinions from some extremely dedicated music lovers.
But how does this relate to Blushing’s new record, Possessions? Only a cursory listen quickly reveals how it shares many classic elements of both genres. On one hand, it certainly has the rich musical texture we expect from traditional shoegaze. In fact, it’s nearly impossible for your ears to capture all the woven vocals and powerful guitar chords. The record also boasts a solid shoegaze pedigree with guest vocals from Lush’s Miki Berenyi, production by Elliott Frazier from Ringo Deathstarr, and mastering courtesy of Mark Gardener from Ride. However, there’s also a beauty to the work that I would often associate with my generation’s definition of dream pop. The purity of the vocals alone make it feel like something more than a mere rock album. There’s an ethereal quality that speaks to the psychedelic notes we expect in modern dream pop.
The band’s bio rightfully acknowledges this crossover of genres by adopting the title, “dreamgazers.” It’s also in this blend of sounds that Blushing thankfully avoids the clichéd pitfalls of both genres, where most modern shoegaze is simply rehashed guitar riffs recorded loud enough to hide disappointing vocals and the majority of dream pop is so simplified or so spacy that it lacks depth. Instead, Blushing, which consists of two husband and wife duos, Christina Carmona (vocals + bass), Noe Carmona (guitar), Michelle Soto (guitar + vocals), and Jacob Soto (drums), combine a healthy dose of guitar with pristine, spacy vocals to forge their own distinctive path.
Album opener, “Bed,” is a huge song, full of loud guitars, thunderous bass, and crashing percussion, all veiled with an ominous fuzz. It’s the perfect opening track to make sure they have your attention. Using a smart juxtaposition of sounds, Blushing follows the fury of, “Bed” with the beauty of, “Sour Punch.” Here, Lush’s influences on the band are pronounced. A standout trio of opening songs is completed with, “Blame.” In an unexpected twist, the song features guest vocals by Lush’s Miki Berenyi, yet it leans heavily into modern dream pop as the lofty guitar chords buoy the ethereal vocals. These three opening tracks combine the best elements of classic shoegaze and dreampop but feel remarkably modern and fresh.
While it’s easy to get lost enjoying the entire album, some additional highlights are, “Surround (With Love),” “The Fires,” “Waster,” and “How It Ends.” “Surrounded (With Love),” is notable for its sonic journey taking you from its gentle, drifting start to an explosion of guitar that is coupled with a near head-banging-worthy drumbeat. “Waster,” is an amazing musical slow build that culminates with enough rocking guitar and drums to make it worth repeat listens. “The Fires,” which is mixed by Mark Gardener from Ride, is one of the best examples of the band’s dreamgaze style, seamlessly blending the genres.
Before it’s all over, Blushing hits us with the aptly named, “How It Ends.” There’s still plenty of guitar and a driving drumbeat; however, its lighter feel makes for a true conclusion to the record, letting the listener decompress after being held on the edge of their seat for the last 11 tracks.
On Possessions, Blushing inspires flashback memories to shoegaze’s prime while injecting enough dreampop haze to allow fans of both genres to enjoy their dreamgaze sound. It’s the kind of album that’s distinctive enough to make you listen with a little more interest the next time someone recommends a new shoegaze or dreampop record. It’s also the kind of album that simply deserves to be played loud and enjoyed.