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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

"Dreams" displays its title being (somewhat) realized

A lighter entry early in the Cranberries' discography kept me in the right mood when I heard it for the first time today.

Thank you, Spotify autoplay, for introducing me to today's song.

For someone constantly on the hunt for music they haven't heard before, such as myself, autoplay is a great feature on streaming services. Let a song, a playlist, or an album play to its conclusion, and the algorithmically selected songs that will play afterward often lead you to songs and artists with a somewhat similar sound or energy.

The album from which today's fateful autoplay stemmed was Coldplay's 2011 record Mylo Xyloto. I was listening to it for the first time in a while after referencing and thinking about it while writing my article on Emeli Sandé's "Next to Me" a few days ago. After listening to the album and cueing up a massively underrated B-side from the era in "Moving to Mars," Mylo Xyloto's dreamy, electronic-tinged pop/alt rock sound gave way to an earlier, bright alternative profile through a song with a fitting title, given my preceding description: "Dreams," by the Cranberries, the Irish group fronted by the unmistakable voice of the late Dolores O'Riordan. The debut single from the Cranberries' first studio album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? (1993), the upbeat and love-centered "Dreams" did strike me as a fitting autoplay starter because of the lyrical and musical themes of the album album which spawned it.

The Cranberries are much more well known for a grungier sound present on their enduring hit "Zombie," among others, but they did not transition to that sonic profile until their second album, No Need to Argue (1994). "Dreams," meanwhile, was released nearly two years before "Zombie," and as such it captures the band's earlier, lighter sound, with greater influence present from post-punk and jangle pop to go along with their bridging of alt rock and Irish folk elements. Noel Hogan's lead guitar defines this early-stage sound for the band more than any other instrument. It remains clean and consonant, and its reverb helps give the some a somewhat dreamy effect. This dreamy sensation is noticeably furthered by O'Riordan's vocals. Her delivery in her distinct Limerick accent is delicate, allowing her lovestruck lyrics to breathe and reverberate as she sings of truly falling for someone for the first time.

Narratively, I particularly enjoy O'Riordan's early line about how even her titular dreams don't ever exactly come true, and that life is "never quite as it seems." It's a self-aware passage that acknowledges the fickle nature of our dreams, and how nothing is ever as plain and simple as we dream it to be. Falling in love can be beautiful, but neither it not anything else ever goes exactly according to plan or follows a neat script.

There's one more element to the song which falls outside a purely narrative lens that really helps tie everything together in a way only the Cranberries can: O'Riordan's two yodeling sections. Combined with tinges of the traditional Gaelic mourning cry known as keening, the yodeling almost feels otherworldly, especially in contrast to the other, more structured sections as the yodeling passages take on a freer shape. The first yodeling section also taking place in another key space during the bridge only further adds to its distinctiveness within the song. In the overall context of "Dreams" and the track's lyrical narrative, the two sections are the most dreamlike elements of all, and through them O'Riordan and the Cranberries truly embody their title.

A song which tells of the awe and gratitude in falling in love like one hasn't before, "Dreams" was a welcome continuation of the positivity exuded by the music I listened to before it. Even though I currently lack someone in my life that makes me feel the sensations described by its lyrics, it kept me feeling happy in a moment I very much needed to be assisted to feel that way. That's one of the things I love about music: even when you can't exactly resonate with the story one aspect of a piece tells, you can still get so much emotionally from other elements, as I did today.


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