[SHOEGAZE DAZE] Don't let the title of Anne's debut album fool you—this Portland quartet's sad-sack shoegazing is about as punk as Robert Smith's mansion. But the bait-and-switch perpetrated by Dream Punx is a welcome surprise, for although Portland does not lack for peddlers of speed and aggression, there are surprisingly few bands here pushing the kind of wet and gray dolor Anne so expertly evokes.
Composed of both newly recorded tracks and songs culled from previously released DIY affairs, Dream Punx isn't quite a proper "album," but you wouldn't know it, as the record's tight 30 minutes cohere into a singular wash of mid-tempo melancholy that fills the strait between Slowdive and Disintegration.
Sequenced in reverse chronological order—the album ends at Anne's beginning, with a song off a 2010 demo—Dream Punx peaks in the middle, with the plangent majesty of "Lower Faiths," one of five songs recorded specifically for this release. A sterling example of the wintry thrills Anne is capable of conjuring, "Lower Faiths" finds a synth's rapid pulse beating beneath echoing, braiding guitar lines while somber vocals make like a sick kid and dive for the middle of the mix. It is music for fetal positions, and it is wonderful.
Cynical listeners might find something a bit overly academic or mannered in Anne's resolutely retrospective gaze, but the unabashed romanticism of the project more often than not does exactly what unabashed romanticism is so dangerously good at doing: It brushes away hesitancy and doubt while ushering us, free of shame, into dark places where love and sadness merge into shapes that quicken and stun. Does that strike you as so much bad teen poetry? Then move along, Mr. Sunshine, and let us mope in peace.