Mini Dresses have put out several EPs and tapes of reverb-soaked dream pop since their start in 2012, but now they're releasing their full-length debut. The eponymous album comes after a couple of years of hard work, collaboration, and, apparently, a fair share of struggle. For a collection with so much poured into it, the result is surprisingly restrained. Mini Dresses subscribes to the less-is-more formula, featuring ten clear and spacious songs that subtly shift through different genres and sounds.
Throughout the album, the Boston-based trio create crisp little stories designed to transport and charm the pants off of the listener. In the past, Mini Dresses have built hazy soundscapes that sweep the listener into fuzzy daydreams. In Mini Dresses, the band lose some of the haziness but maintain the fantasy. In fact, fantasy is their frequent subject. It emerges, for example, in the question repeated in “Are You Real," or in the evocative metaphor in “You’re a Statue Standing in the Rain.”
Though less hazy, Mini Dresses still manage to convey that whimsy through their sound, too. At different moments, they borrow from various time periods and resemble different artists who excel at some form of escapism or reverie. The opener, “Emily,” with its tale of a woman who moves from her “parents’ home in Connecticut,” contains shades of Belle & Sebastian. “Fantasy Nails," meanwhile, with its bright guitar and lilting voice, forms a heartwarming and catchy melody that recalls the early, seafaring days of Tennis. The uptempo “Everywhere I Go” journeys back to the ‘80s in a contemporary time machine. Other songs, such as “Hands Down” and “Hired Gun,” pulse with their own breed of fantasy.
Despite its dreaminess, though, the most prominent forces on Mini Dresses are the very real instrumental and vocal talents. Propelling the album are its meticulous sounds, primarily the guitar and voice. Though each track uses mostly the same combination of drums, bass, guitar, light synth, and vocals, Mini Dresses find incredible shades within their palette. Singer Lira Mondal’s voice is more dulcet than powerful, but she finds a wide emotional range from song to song. It is strong and clear in the leaping melody on “Are You Real,” gentle, loose, and a touch twee on “Post Office Girl,” and soulful and close on “Hired Gun” and “Division.” Equally expressive is the guitar, which dances around the vocal melodies throughout the album in hooky riffs played in varying warm tones.
Opting for these understated but deliberate variations, Mini Dresses’ first full length is a testament to the fact that it takes more work to pare down than it does to expand. The pleasure in the album—besides the hooks and the fantasies and the sheer charm of it—comes from recognizing the intricacies hiding in all that space.