I have a soft spot for 80s pop radio. Sure, in 1987 I was the kid sitting on the bus heading to middle school with headphones on and a copy of Anthrax’ State Of Euphoria in my Sony Walkman. But side A would end and before I could flip to side B I could hear Taylor Dayne or T’Pau playing over the bus speakers and I’d never end up flipping the tape. I’d sit there and bask in the glory of mid-80s pop queens and pretend I was headbanging to “Antisocial”.
New Zealand singer/songwriter Tamaryn does not remind me of Taylor Dayne, but her mix of dream pop, shoegaze, and darker hued 80s electro pop puts me in that same headspace as 14-year old me on the school bus with the jean jacket, Walkman full of speed metal, and an aching for Tiffany(don’t judge me.) Tamaryn works within the same emotional spaces as pop songwriters, but she’s way more Cocteau Twins and Siouxsie Sioux than Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam.
Her last album, 2015s Cranekiss, was a big and bright blast of synth-heavy songs that leaned into more alternative territory, and away from the guitar-driven albums that came before. With her new album, the darker Dreaming The Dark, Tamaryn(aka Tamaryn Brown) puts her vocals up front and center for an album ripe with melodrama and dark pop majesty.
“Angel of Sweat” opens the album beautifully. It’s a great mix of hard electro, big melodies, and Tamaryn’s exquisite vocal delivery. As far as opening tracks go, this one is top tier. “Terrified” recalls Tears For Fears, had they fallen hard for The Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. It’s a great mixture of 80s pop drums and dreamy guitar lines. “Fits of Rage” has a Cocteau Twins feel, but with Tamaryn taking her vocals to new, powerful heights.
This album is easily the most emotionally charged collection Tamaryn has done up to this point. Each song seems to seethe and sway from one to the next, each carrying us along on little clouds of heartbreak and turmoil. One of the standout tracks is title track “Dreaming The Dark”. It flits along on a mix of synthwave, dark electro, and 80s alternative, closing the album on a cavernous peak of doomed romanticism.
Dreaming The Dark is an engaging and alluring musical world. Tamaryn once again redefines her sound, shading the gray areas and letting just a little light in when necessary.
7.6 out of 10