Homage to the goth ’80s
On her fourth studio effort Dreaming the Dark, Tamaryn guides the listener through the museum of music trends long past. Though previously leading the shoegaze tours, she has decided to transfer over to the exhibit on gothic synthpop. Tamaryn is a decent docent, pointing out all of the important displays in the exhibit and describing them clearly. But of course, Tamaryn is not just a museum tour guide, but a contemporary musical artist. While succeeding at the former task, she fails to excite in the latter; she does not ultimately arrive at her own conclusion regarding this music and does the bare minimum in adding her own spin to the sounds of the past.
Even before playing the album, Tamaryn’s nostalgic intentions are made very clear with the album cover. It is a striking visual of Tamaryn surrounded by blurry moths fluttering around her in a neon-pastel backdrop. She is dressed in a simple tunic-type outfit and is sitting modestly with her wrists crossed on her lap. Tamaryn’s face is in focus, drawing the viewer’s eyes toward it; her face is heavily made up and her head is tilted slightly as if she was taking a school portrait. However, she is not smiling. The made-up face and non-smiling expression immediately call back to gothic pop album covers such as The Human League’s Dare! The bright colors and smudginess call back to shoegaze and dream pop album covers.
As for the music, it is an amalgamation of all things the ’80s. It is clear Tamaryn is heavily influenced by the likes of Tears for Fears, The Cure and Depeche Mode. There is even a little of New Order, the Human League and Annie Lennox. Everything on the album is hazed with reverb, making the album just as much a dream pop album as a synthpop album.
On the opener “Angels of Sweat,” the album begins with some tapering notes soaked in reverb, sounding like stars twinkling in the night, before busting out the propulsive staccato synths prominent on albums such as Tears for Fears’ The Hurting. Tamaryn’s deep and trembling voice, perfect for the melancholy mood she sets, oozes into the hazy mix. While the songs do not all sound alike, they all follow a similar formula of ’80s gothic music trait + deep trembling voice + reverb haze. There is no new spin on the ’80s pastiche, besides maybe adding a little more reverb. There is one moment where the music comes too close to one of its influences for comfort; the opening guitar/drum pattern on “Path to Love” is almost exactly the pattern on the Cure’s “Disintegration.”
However, Tamaryn does add a few of her own talents to the ’80s styles. Her voice is very versatile, going from nearly screaming on “Fits of Rage” to crooning on “You’re Adored.” Tamaryn is a decent songwriter; the tune on a song like “The Jealous Kind” is quite catchy. Tamaryn also succeeds in her goal of creating a continuously melancholy mood throughout the album. One of the best overall efforts is “Victim Complex.” There is a heftier and more-industrial beat, and Tamaryn’s vocals sound downright spooky.
Tamaryn does the ’80s sounds well, but not to the point where they become her own. Additionally, the sounds have become stale in 2019, and don’t carry the same excitement that they used to. But just as there is an audience for the ’80s dance-pop of Carly Rae Jepsen, there is an audience for Tamaryn covering the more gothic side of ’80s pop. This album can be a tasteful hit of non-surface-level ’80s nostalgia or something to feed the hunger for melancholy music. Beyond that, Tamaryn has not concocted an exhibit worth revisiting.