At a recent performance at CMJ, former San Franciscans Mates of State performed a cover of “Why Don’t You Make Me,” a great song by Oakland’s Dreamdate. The endorsement by the popular group is a testament to Dreamdate’s indie pop skills, and like the Mates, the duo of Yea-Ming and Anna win fans with some extraordinarily catchy and personal songs featuring sweet pop melodies as well as more explosive rock-out moments. But while the cover features the Mates’ signature vocal harmonies and some bombastic pop, I found myself drawn back to the original version which is signature Dreamdate: minimal, catchy, awesome.
Formerly a trio with ex-member Emily now residing in Seattle, the twosome met at UC Berkeley as music majors who write songs that don’t sound like the work of music majors. Their songs do, however, seize on Yea-Ming and Anna’s shared love of vocal harmonies to develop a unique and thoroughly engaging melodic sensibility. After a number of shows around the Bay Area and a previous 7”, the band released their excellent debut full length album titled Come Over Now earlier this year on local label Chocolate Covered Records.
That album’s ten songs clock in at a total of about 25 minutes, but they’re packed with lyrical and musical ideas without ever getting cluttered. Somehow, this band has managed to draw the best of out of number of different genres, mining the sincerity of singer-songwriter lyricism, the fun stripped-down sensibility of garage rock, and the catchy hummamble melodies of indie-pop to create something that feels like a fresh update on retro pop.
That analysis notwithstanding, it all manages to come off sounding effortless, but the balance of sounds is key to making it work so well. There’s something about the raw garagey feel, for example, that allows Yea-Ming and Anna to sing songs about uncomfortable moments in real-life relationships without ever getting too twee. It’s a trait that reminds me of Beat Happening and progeny and while Come Over Now certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on K Records, I think there might be too much fun in this band’s sound for them to fit perfectly in with the Pacific Northwest crew. Frankly, I’d rather have them here anyway. If you don’t live in the Bay Area, though, Dreamdate’s headed on a West Coast tour in December, so check them out if you can.
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