Like a wistful teen drama written by adults in their 30s, Only In Dreams is a keenly observed throwback to wily, adolescent emotions. And though this isn’t entirely new ground for the Dum Dum Girls—nostalgic mindfulness has always been in the group’s repertoire—its second full-length does round out some of the rougher, more anxious edges from previous records. It’s a softer side to the Dum Dum Girls, but no less catchy or insistent. Hooky choruses and punky surf-rock embellishments abound.
Led by Kristin “Dee Dee” Gundred, the Girls are also a much more cohesive act this time around, with all four members contributing vocals to the album. It’s a wink and a nudge to ’50s girl groups: The fuller sound of matching harmonies are definite pop flashbacks. (See also: Song titles like “Bedroom Eyes” and “Teardrops On My Pillow.”) But revivalism isn’t the entire appeal here—a lot of it is Gundred’s presence as lead Girl. Her warm voice has an unapproachable coolness, an indeterminable weight that can be both heavy-hearted and buoyant. On “Coming Down,” the graceful ballad Gundred wrote for her late mother, she sings “I take as much as I can get / I don’t take any regret.” It’s a fitting summation of where the Dum Dum Girls seem to be now, edging toward the older-and-wiser stage of life where teenage angst is put away in favor of pensive optimism.