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What dreams may come

Santa Cruz foursome Dog Dreams make lighter-than-air indie pop

Dog Dreams approach the vulnerability of humanity with a light, jangly touch. Photo credit: Elle Breidenthal

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A funny thing happens when people watch dogs sleep. Sometimes, when a dog is truly, deeply asleep, their paws will twitch uncontrollably, in a more frantic version of the little tremors that roll over our bodies when we're similarly sunken into a REM state. What's odd is the amount that humans tend to project on dogs in these moments: almost unanimously, we seem to have decided that the dogs are likely dreaming of chasing rabbits in some beautiful, sun-drenched meadow of flowers somewhere (we use the same image when lying to a child about a dead pet, oddly enough).

Maybe it's because we basically agree that dogs are fundamentally kinda dumb as a species, but we never tend to imagine their dream life being anything more fantastical than the most basic of urges to chase another animal in a wide open space. For all we know, the dream life of a dog may be more profoundly wild than anything we can comprehend, putting to shame our comparatively tame dreams about being caught pants-less in our old elementary school that's somehow also our childhood best friend's kitchen - you know, lame stuff like that. Freed from the constrictions of self-awareness, dogs may dream more psychedelically than we could ever hope to.

Something tells me that Dog Dreams, a four-piece out of Santa Cruz, might give our canine friends the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their unconscious states. Just the title of "Relaxation Music for Penguins," the opener for their debut LP Free-swimming, tips me off to Dog Dreams thinking a little broader when it comes to questions about the natural world. Their twee, chiming pop conveys a sense of wide-eyed wonder, with their feet on the ground but their heads in the clouds.

Dog Dreams have a mature, tossed-off attitude concerning the vulnerability that comes with being human; as frontwoman Dorota Szuta sings on that gently driving opener, "Sometimes I cry, it's no big deal," a sentiment that is equal parts melancholy and triumphant. Later on that song, Szuta calls out to her partner, saying, "If you were here, I'd feel less crazy; ‘cause I'm like Baby and you're Patrick Swayze," simultaneously distancing herself from acknowledging depending on someone while still summing up a million feelings in a handy reference that connects the listener with a bit of shared cultural memory. At Dog Dreams' best, they expertly ride that line of the personal and the universal, the sincere and the tongue-in-cheek.

The rest of the band consists of Brett Hydeman on guitar, Tyler Martin on bass and keyboard, and Julia Warner on drums. I find it telling that the promotional photos of Dog Dreams show the foursome lying on a small bed together, a handy shorthand to get across the silly, confessional vibe that comes along with both sleepovers and the music of Dog Dreams. Much of their music feels like four friends lying in the dark, eyes staring at the ceiling, engaging in loopy, sparse conversation before drifting off to sleep.

Though they describe their music as garagepop, that doesn't quite convey the clean, pristine sound of Dog Dreams' lighter-than-air indie jangle. Szuta's lilting vocals always take the foreground over a bed of tentatively insistent instrumentation that sometimes threatens to go full-on anthemic, but always pulls back at the last minute. This is music that feels content to hang back, to let you come to it, to not knock you over the head with meaning, while still inviting closer examination. Dog Dreams is the kind of band that might allow for the possibility that all dogs want is a rabbit in a field, but that maybe they fantasize about a whole lot more.

Dog Dreams w/ Maybe Baby & the Bitch Boys, Box Fan, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 6 p.m., Cover TBA, Le Voyeur, All Ages, 404 E. 4th Ave., Olympia, 360.943.5710

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