The excitement that surrounded Dream Wife’s self-titled debut seemed almost unavoidable. After a 2017 full to the brim with festival appearances, tour dates and cosigns from some of music’s most influential figures, there is certainly a lot to expect from the pop-punk girl band. Born out of a sarcastic art project that took off, Dream Wife have always represented female empowerment by challenging gender roles with the fiery attitude that they bring to their music. This album unapologetically pushes the boundaries of contemporary rock, however, the experimental nature of the project creates peaks of screaming energy to match its anticlimactic troughs.
The opening single ‘Let’s Make Out’ is as forward and emphatic as the title suggests. Our first introduction to the raspy and powerful voice of lead singer Rakel Mjöll is memorable, the chorus’s infectious attitude clings to every inch of your being from its first refrain. A triumphant track full of punchy drum fills and Alice Go’s squealing electric guitar, there’s a rough edge charm as if it were recorded during a live set. ‘Let’s Make Out’ willingly relinquishes its intensity for the pop-infused song ‘Somebody,’ bringing with it a message about the disembodiment of female identity; “I am not my body, I’m somebody.” Lively snares add a lot to this track to complement its galloping guitar melody, and it ultimately succeeds in emulating the dainty female stereotypes that Dream Wife consequently confront lyrically. ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ sees Mjöll’s airy vocals rise to a commanding bark to create a fun and characterful cut. Yet again a ferocious song is trailed by a mellow pop-rock fusion, In this case ‘Love Without Reason’ serves as a preppy but ultimately dampening track, despite Bella Popadec’s smooth bass.
This album also addresses themes of nostalgia and youth. The vocal ad-libs on ‘Kids’ add to its spirit founded in teenage romances that “will never end.” Also notable is the intriguing and quirky electric guitar melody that rises and plummets to great effect. ‘Taste’ is one of the album’s standout cuts with a screeching chorus that comes out of left field, it’s this mercurial quality that makes Dream Wife such a thrill to listen to at their best. This considered, ‘Act My Age’ exemplifies when their unapologetically confrontational sound harms the fluidity of certain songs. Mjöll bombards you with rhetorical questions after smashing through a relatively steady verse, she screams “do I confuse you!” It’s met by myself with both irony and discomfort. The content, however, remains solid, challenging the conservative constructs surrounding age and femininity that society enforces. ‘Right Now’ and ‘Spend the Night’ are two more light-hearted and catchy tracks that feel somewhat shallow but entertaining in equal measure. The album’s close lands at the feet of ‘F.U.U.’, and what a finish it is. As soon as the song’s bold electric guitar and drums roll into the composition, it’s clear that the girls want to take their debut out in a blaze of glory. Showcasing a gritty feature from Icelandic rapper Fever Dream, in her native language no less, this full throttle song is pure energy dedicated to the “bad bitches.”
Dream Wife, while far from perfect, has a lot to offer to listeners looking for a unique and powerful sound. At points the rough edge that the band intentionally kept alive in their music is overwhelming, yet it is this character that breathes addictive energy through most of the tracks on this project. The themes and lyrical content are strong, although it seems the girls aren’t so concerned about leaving you with questions as they are with dictating what questions to ask. Although for me, this album’s selling point is its ability to bring the organic essence of live music into your headphones and stereos. It feels raw. It feels incomplete. But it certainly makes you feel alive.
Catch Dream Wife on their UK/Europe tour this March.By Joel Landschaft-Singe