Label: Sub Pop/Bella Union
Release Date: January 26, 2010
When Baltimore duo Beach House lit up the musical landscape late last year and delivered a definitive knockout track in the form of the fully formed ‘Norway’ off their then yet to be released third effort Teen Dream, I couldn’t help but get excited about the prospective ear candy that the Chris Coady produced release proper promised to deliver. I also felt a little trepidation that the album may not live up to those lofty expectations and at the risk of sounding sacrilegious given all the critic and blog love the album has recieved, initially the first couple of listens failed to deliver. I needn’t of worried because no matter, in the end, as with the first two Beach House albums, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have again produced a collection of exquisite slow burners, with more accessibility yet lasting qualities where nothing misses the mark. The fact that I’ve listened to this album more than any other this year thus far is early testimony to how great it is and will turn out to be in posterity. The lesson for reviewers is, don’t be premature in judgement. Does Tom Hughes of Guardian fame want another go?
The amazing thing about the Beach House sound is how remarkable it is by being well, unremarkable. Let me explain. The consistent pulse and timing behind the lush, ethereal soundscapes whether it be by using Legrand’s synth or a thin or deep sounding drum machine is repetitive across the album but it lays a base for the creation of those soundscapes which are accompanied by lasting hooks and alternation between light and dark, cold and warmth. Scally’s guitar is immediately prominent on the metaphoric opener ‘Zebra’ and combined with Legrand’s sun-drenched keys and soaring vocals, its a knockout combination that is immediately on show and extends throughout the albums’ 53 minutes. The fact that each song sits between four and six minutes and none outstays its welcome often finishing before you’re ready is evidence of the lasting qualities of Teen Dream.
‘Silver Soul’ is a classic example of the feel on the first two albums but sounds more rounded in an aural sense and delves organically deeper musically. That the pristine ‘Norway’ is still a standout after three solid months on repeat is unsurprising and the excellent ‘Walk In The Park’ is further evidence that Beach House is one of the tightest, most innately tuned into eachother duos around. ‘Used To Be’ sits pretty as the middle track and its change in tempo is a welcome distraction and perfectly paves the way for the familiar melody that dominates ‘Lover Of Mine’, a track that sports a shoegaze shuffle. ‘Real Love’ is the best example of Legrand’s vocal growth as she displays an almost chanteuse quality. ‘Take Care’ rounds the album off perfectly and is sublime in its simplicity with only Legrand’s vocals changing noticeably backed by Scally’s always more than complementary pipes as the musically driven beat continues on relentlessly until the fade out leaves you longing for more. Just start again. I have many times.
James Stocker – February 6, 2010