One of the inaugural releases in Captured Tracks' Shoegaze Archives series, Oceanside: 1991-1993 captures cult favorite dream poppers Deardarkhead at a pivotal point in their history. Compiling 1991’s Spiral Down and Vibrate, 1992’s Melt Away Too Soon, and 1993’s Ultraviolet EPs, the collection traces the New Jersey band’s growth from moody post-punk worshipers to lush shoegazers. Early tracks such as “One of a Kind” have a near-goth intensity that is reflected in many of Captured Tracks' contemporary signings, and Michael Amper's vocals hover somewhere in between Ian Curtis and Morrissey. Melt Away Too Soon selections like “Surf’s Up” and “Enough” find the band truly edging into shoegaze territory with pedal-stomping layers of guitars and Amper's hazier singing style, which recalls My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields. Several of the collection’s highlights come from Ultraviolet's songs, which find Deardarkhead coming into their own on all fronts: “Rollercoaster” is probably the poppiest song here, and a fine example of the band’s more focused songwriting; “Invisible” features Amper's best vocal turn; and “Strobelight”’s whisper-to-a-roar dynamics and pulsing guitars show the group at the peak of its powers. Not only is Oceanside: 1991-1993 a nice tribute to one of shoegaze’s lesser-known but worthy acts, it’s also a fascinating document of how a band can grow into its sound and abilities.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares