Dreampop is leading us into the next century. It is one of the more progressive and ever-evolving sub-genres of the past decade. A relatively new genre that combines the ethereal and harmonic vocals from Shoegaze as well as the catchy and jangly melodies from pop. While the genre isn’t exactly narrowly defined this is one of more the common definitions I see across the music community. It is one of my favorite genres at the moment and the one I look out for the most when I’m exploring new music. The genre is ever expanding and is one of the main sub-genre that is leading us into the new decade. I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about one of my favorite bands of this decade and their evolution to where they are now.
The story of Men I Trust’s rise to indie fame is a bit more abnormal than most. The group initially started without their lead singer. In 2014 producer Dragos Chiriac and bassist Jessy Caron, both Quebec music graduates and high school friends reunited after college and came together to form a duo named Men I Trust. Their music was heavily inspired by the electronic movement of the 2000s. If you take for example a song from their self titled 2014 debut like Endless Strive and compare it to their most recent output you immediately hear the difference in their approach to production. The programmed robotic electronic drums alongside these boisterous synthesizers give you a closer look into how the duo looked at song creation. The basics where all there, the dance-inducing, funkiness and soothe demeanor coupled with great vocal performances by frequent guest collaborators offered a range of different song types. At that was really missing would soon be discovered.
In 2015 as they were working on their next project they came across a video on Facebook of their future lead singer Emmanuelle Proulx. They were so impressed by her voice they invited her on to their 2015 album Headroom. On the track Out In Myself, we get a very subdued and reverb packed poetic performance from Emma with some lyrics I still can’t even understand myself. What the hell is a “dread cabalist night”? I’m not too sure but it slaps regardless. The other track she lends her voice to Curious Fish is a little dancier and energetic with these stabbing and interjecting strings that pop in from time to time. And the tale of a lone fish being attracted to love and pulled it by its shiny exterior. The album itself is fantastic, with the first half being very feature heavy with every singer lending the best version of themselves and the bottom half taking bits and pieces from house music and 80’s style synthesizers reminiscent of the fairly new at the time Random Access Memories by French house duo Daft Punk. While I am a big fan of this record the band would later go on to say in many interviews that the sound of the album was almost too clear and pristine that it essentially dehumanized many of the aspects of the project and that they were naturally moving towards a more organic sound. Which would ring especially true as the marathon of singles began.
So what happened next? They haven’t been very clear in their interviews but one can only assume that sometime in between June of that year and March of the next Emma was asked to join the band as their official and full-time singer. In early March of 2016, they released their first single as a full 3-piece band Humming Man. The song is magical, beginning with a very simple loop and drum kick while Emma speaks in the perspective of an anxious and paranoid old man who has disconnected himself from the outside world. “Amid the gate, he stares at my door. How long did I see him stay?” is one of the many lines that puts you in that old man’s shoes all while you bob your head alongside that groovy bass line. The vocals are brimming with reverb and tons of effects that give this song an out of body experience.
The next single is a complete shift from their first song. Lauren is much more reliant on acoustic instrumentation and less vocal effects. While there is still a ever-present omniscient synth accompanying the track the absolutely killer bass playing is what carries this song. By elevating the bass and making it essentially the glue that sticks this song together you get a sound that isn’t all that common in the Dreampop or IndiePop genre. It’s so infectious it makes you want to get up and dance at any chance you get. The panning harmony is something you can’t help to sing along to every time. The song was originally what really put them on to more people as the song was spread all across popular sites like Bandcamp and the IndieHeads subreddit. The beginning of the rush of popularity for the band.
Let’s fast forward a bit shall we? The year is now 2017 and after a few more singles we see the release of Tailwhip, a song that would eventually surpass the popularity of Lauren and become the bands most well-known song. The song is chock-full of energy and while you think you’d eventually get real annoyed of the constant beeping synthesizer during the hook of this song I actually grew to love it, it’s just one of the many examples of these tiny little additions
that add to character to Men I Trust songs. The little piano breakdown before the hook is like a mini-countdown to get you pumped as fuck for the hook which is so catchy and so easy to sing along too you can’t help but do it. This is a perfect example of the band being able to combine their roots in electronic music with more organic instrumentation to perfectly compliment Emma’s voice, a trend that would follow in their next singles.
I Hope To Be Around is a more standard dream pop song with a very basic drum pattern and jangly guitar instrumentation, but the real charm is in Emma’s lyrics. Everyone dreams of their future and finally hitting this state of self-realization, finally realizing who you are what your purpose is. Truth is a topic that is ever-present in many of Men I Trust songs, hell it’s even in their name. But being at peace with yourself and being able, to be honest with yourself. Another reason why this song is so great is that it gave us this incredibly heartwarming viral video of a crowd singing along to the song and driving Emma to tears. it’s one of the pivotal moments for the band coming from Montreal all the way to New York and having people dedicated enough to know every single word to your song. I just needed to include this clip because it almost makes me cry every time I watch it.
Let’s inch just a little closer to the present. While I’d love to touch on every song I want to speak a little more on another important moment in this run of amazing singles. Seven was released in late 2018 and was unlike anything I had heard at the time. You can, of course, hear the patented jangly dream-pop guitar providing assistance to the groovy and heavy bassline throughout the song what really pops in this song is once again the songwriting by Emma. The song is about a private moment that happened to the band at a party and their experience with someone who was always a little too curious and took things a little too far. While they won’t exactly name names in order to keep the event itself private safe to say there was definitely some sort of sexy undertones being presented in the song itself. And I would never live it down if I didn’t talk about that incredibly sensual guitar solo near the end of the track. A great ending to a fantastic track.
And finally, we get to the present day. Norton Commander is the newest of the singles and is one of my personal favorites. There is something about that guitar during the chorus that just blows my eardrums away. It’s so soft and smooth that is completely and totally compliments Emma’s silky comforting singing style. And just like in the music video, It’s a perfect song to throw on with the top down cruising through the late-night streets of any metropolitan area, just enjoying life like it was meant to be enjoyed.
So whats next? The band originally had an album due out in February of this year but has since been in a constant state of delay after delay. As Emma said in a podcast interview with Culture Creature, touring can be a very stressful environment and it can be very difficult to create art when your headspace is full of other priorities. They initially announced that once touring had stopped they would work to put the finishing touches on the record and give it to the fans. Thankfully on the 24th of July, they announced that their long-awaited 3rd album and debut with Emma as the lead Oncle Jazz would release in mid-September with a whopping 24 tracks many of which we have to yet to have heard. What I’m personally hoping for are songs just like the singles, diverse yet poignant and connected. They all have a certain quality that in this genre is only being achieved by this band right now. It’s hard to explain but going through this bands singles will give you an idea for what I’m talking about. Men I Trust is leading the dream pop revolution and while I haven’t heard the album yet I’m sure if it’s anywhere near as good as their singles we are gearing up for one of the best projects of the year.