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Dum Dum Girls: Only in Dreams (Sub Pop) 

The first thing to notice about Dum Dum Girls is the attitude—that audacious, flirtatious cool, with their don't-follow-the-rules posturing. Debut album I Will Be was a musical exploration of that attitude, marking Dum Dum Girls as a fresh and intriguing buzz band.

Only in Dreams takes that attitude and runs with it—in a few different directions. The band still brings a refreshing punk rawness and hazy reverb to melodic retro-pop, but there's a bit more exploration this time out.

Added to the batch of influences found on the debut—chiefly the Shangri-Las and the Ramones—are Mazzy Star and the Pretenders, shoring up what were some weaker areas of the band's sound.

With its blend of bubblegum pop and waves of guitar reverb, "Bedroom Eyes" sounds like it could soundtrack a John Hughes movie—bittersweet music for when words won't quite capture it.

"Just a Creep" has tones of surf rock, while "Heartbeat (Take It Away)" and "Caught in One" especially ring with the bouncy rock 'n' roll of the Pretenders.

Singer Dee Dee (Kristen Gundred) wrote much of the album as a response to the death of her mother, with the sense of loss, pain and confusion especially poignant in "Hold Your Hand," "Teardrops on My Pillow" and "Wasted Away."

Preferences will surely vary between Only in Dreams and I Will Be, but that's missing the point. With a smooth and confident follow-up, Dum Dum Girls have easily passed from buzz band to sophomore-slump conquerors, with plenty more to anticipate.

More by Eric Swedlund

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