“Every great dream begins with a dreamer” ~Harriet Tubman
When Paige Stark and Luke Paquin arrived on the music in 2011 as Tashaki Miyaki, the music world opened its ears to a form of shoegaze that was lush and ethereal and even reaching levels of ecstasy. For the next six years, the duo would tease their growing fan base with singles, an EP, and a few covers, but the debut album remained elusive. That was until last week, when the aptly-titled The Dream finally arrived.
At first listen, a noticeable difference is evident: the dreamgaze music of their previous efforts has been set aside for more of a dream-pop / psychedelic-pop mix. However, the album is still a dazzling array of music that reaches breathtaking proportions. But upon further examination, Stark and Paquin haven’t just created an album; they’ve written a record that feels like the soundtrack to a movie. Each song tells a story of love, loss, separation, desire, desperation, and hope – and each one feels connected to the next one.
The album is bookended by two fantastic instrumentals which set the stage for Tashaki Miyaki’s beautiful fantasy world where the stories are told. At just under a minute in length, “LAPD Prelude” starts softly but intensifies into a mysterious piece of cinema. “LAPD Finale” continues where “Prelude” ends, but it is calmer and even serene. The approach gives a sense that the curtains have fallen and a new beginning has arrived for the characters.
Like a great storyteller or playwright, Stark and Paquin introduce us immediately to The Dream’s locale, which is the “City”. It is here where we enter the mind the protagonist, a lonely sole who is wandering the streets and convincing herself everything is fine. But as the guitars, keys, strings, and rhythms cascade into a mesmerizing finish and Stark repeats, “Are we all along?”, everything is anything but fine.
Fame and fortune are the focus on the sublime, “Girls On TV”. The song is a statement of our media- and fame-obsessed culture, where young girls want to be just like the girls they see on TV. “All I want is your face” is a startling line that describes the superficial nature of the arts and entertainment industry, yet their influence is felt throughout. “And all the boys will want me, and everyone will like me. And all the world will know me”, Stark sings as she enters the mind of the wanderer.
This tug-of-war of wanting to be desired and feeling comfortable with oneself is beautifully depicted on “Out Of My Head”. Paquin perfectly counters the soaring strings and lush melody to reflect the inner turmoil.
There’s no one to blame but me, there’s no one to blame but me
I want to be out of my head for just one day
I wanna go somewhere else and feel okay.
In any movie or story, a love affairs blossoms and allows the protagonist to find peace and solace for a moment in time. The stirring “Anyone But You” and the springtime ballad “Cool Runnings” are endearing tracks that recount the moments of bliss in finding that special someone who has helped you overcome your demons. Of course, all good things must come to an end, and the emotive “Tell Me” describes the heartbreak. Yet at the same time, a new chapter is written, and the scorching dream-pop gem, “Facts of Life”, reveals both the anger and optimism of our mysterious woman. Atop Paquin’s searing guitar, Stark sings, “We better move fast. Tonight the future, tomorrow will your past”, which is a reminder to live in the moment because one day “we are all going to die”.
Life, though, often comes full circle, which is where “Get It Right” finds the story. The song is Mazzy Star-esque, and Stark’s voice take on Hope Sandoval’s whisper-like quality. “You are all that I ever wanted. Where will I go? What will I do?”, she sings possibly to someone who has passed away or is on his death bed. Her questions are answered on the sun-kissed anthem, “Something Is Better Than Nothing“. A sense of peace and hope encompass the entire song, at which point we find our leading lady staring into the horizon reminiscing on her past and looking towards her future. It’s a striking number that would have been a great closer, but not for Tashaki Miyaki because we need music for the closing credits.
That song is the bonus track on the album, “LAPD (Full Track)”, which combines the “Prelude” and “Finale” while adding an extra two minutes. The complete song is a symphonic delight. It is enshrouded in mystery, and Stark’s vocals take on a harrowing quality as she gracefully “oohs” in the background. Meanwhile, the wave of strings, guitars, keys, bass, and percussion collide to create a cosmic soundscape, as if the next chapter in the story is somewhere beyond our reach. Or possibly the beginning is somewhere deep within us. Such is the evocative power of The Dream, a fantasy world whose main character is the listener.
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