Alice Dreamt’s “The Wretched World” is The Gothic Bedroom Pop Record for The Quarantine Age

In just about every elementary school classroom I occupied growing up there was a poster that had some variation of the phrase, “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.” I remember making fun of the phrase when I was young, I mean you can imagine a press conference where NASA tries to spin-zone landing on the sun instead of the moon as even greater progress for humanity after all. To be fair though, I had misinterpreted those posters throughout my adolescence. I had always seen the stars as the company you’d be stuck keeping if the bouncer didn’t let you onto the moon, like the teachers were advertising the consolation prize as being as good as the main attraction. What I didn’t realize was that you’re totally alone in space, and the posters were ham-fisted metaphors for self-actualization. You’re supposed to shoot for the highest target available, knowing that by setting yourself to such a high standard whatever you create will be worthwhile, even if it’s not the moon.

 I don’t know whether Detroit’s public schools were filled with the same quazi-motivational posters that lined my New Jersey classrooms, but either way Tim Jones took their message to heart. Tim has been recording since high school where he found a passion for music, dreaming of being able to use his songs to reach great heights while overcoming his social anxiety. He felt that he started to hit his stride with songwriting three years ago right as he started recording under the band name Alice Dreamt. In our email correspondence, Tim talks about Alice Dreamt with an Ash Ketchum like dedication to being the best. He sought out to create the perfect smart pop record for our cultural moment with The Wreched World, hoping to make the quarantine era Revolver or Pet Sounds… you could say that Tim was shooting for the dark side of the moon. Recording the entire album himself from his home in Detroit, Tim first conceived of The Wretched World as an extremely gloomy and political record that matched the world he saw collapsing around him, which lead to the early album highlight “Black Tuesday”. The track is a gothic pop banger that feels like if Ian Curtis came back as a zombie and got his old buddies to let him front New Order, and the song’s organ like synths sound like they could have scored a Castlevania boss battle. “Black Tuesday” both feels like it came from a bygone era while still clearly being formed by our current moment, a track that is as despondent as it is catchy.

However, as he continued making the album the deep, dark, complex tracks he wanted to write were not coming out as he imagined. Tim felt like the way he could make the best music possible was to keep things simple, trying to make the catchiest songs he could rather than the most ambitious, and shifted his sights from the moon to the stars. Tim was still able to make brooding and at times political music that fit the mood of the cultural moment without making sacrifices sonically. “Better Death” for example sound like if The Cure had started in the Soundcloud era. It is a massive smash of a song that will light up live performances whenever those are logistically feasible again. The track is as anthemic as one could make from the comforts of their bedroom, like Tim was trying to blow his own walls over. Later album favorite “Every Single Fucking Day” is similarly as peppy and fun as a song with that title could be. The track features a refrain of heavenly “woo’s” that sound like they came from Lakutis, as Tim laments how navigating existence day after day can feel like dancing on the edge of a knife. “Every Single Fucking Day” perfectly balances the hopelessness of our current moment with Tim’s bubbily lofi synth pop sensibilities, you’d never know Tim felt so bad if he wasn’t literally telling you. Every track walks that same tightrope, balancing the morose lyrics with the pep of the music, but no two tracks end up sounding remotely similar. Maybe the most impressive aspect of the record is how many different styles Alice Dreamt does well, with songs taking inspiration from everything from math rock and harsh noise to gothic dance pop, with touches of 60s pastiches.

Since I first joined the service I had always dreamed of listening to a track enough to single-handedly push it to the top of the artist’s Spotify page, and I am proud to say that I finally accomplished that goal with my favorite song on the album, “Wane Poetic”. The song is among the most optimistic on the record as Tim sings about getting over a long lost love. The track sounds like if the Flaming Lips grew up trying to get signed to Run For Cover records. It’s a glitchy psych-rock smash with an emo bent that is catchy as all fucking hell. The track’s second verse is maybe my favorite modern couplet, a quick treatsie on wanting to move on while still needing to plant your flag as the victor. Tim coos away to his ex, who may or may not be listening, saying, “I’ve been trying to forget about you, it’s hard work but I think it’s finally happened. And I’m aware that this contradicts that, but this is the last song you’re ever getting,” before rolling right into the chorus. It’s an absolute blast of a track that is tightly constructed while still sounding free flowing and loosey goosey.

The Wretched World has been the perfect album for the bizarre state of mind that the pandemic has left me in. The album is self-aware and honest about our dire state of affairs without feeling like it is beating you over the head, just dealing with what can be dealt with. It is fresh while sounding familiar, light while taking itself seriously, and focused while spanning a wide variety of genres and influences. It is truly an album the shot for the moon and landed amongst the stars, and it is among the most poignant quarantine albums I have heard. I find myself endlessly impressed with the universes that artists can create without ever leaving their bedroom, and Alice Dreamt has done just that here. While the world that this record brought us to is indeed a wretched one, it’s no more wretched than the world we already inhabit, and it’s a hell of a lot more fun. This has already become one of my most streamed albums of the year, and one that I will forever link to this strange stretch of time we find ourselves in.

Give this record a listen on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify, or Apple Music. And follow Alice Dreamt on twitter! And thanks to Kairi Huyuyori for the album’s gorgeous cover which we used as the banner image.

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