May 11, 2012 Web Exclusive
Beach House isn't really an "ain't" kind of band, but the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" piece of folk wisdom runs strongly on Bloom. Despite the album title, the duo picks right up where it left off on 2010's Teen Dream.
Really, Teen Dream might have been the blooming, at least sonically. The group opted to record in a converted church with producer Chris Coady (who's behind the boards again on Bloom): the setting took their eerie, droning fodder and rid it of its claustrophobia, made it soar in that headphone space to captivate a little further.
But funny thing about the duo's transition (or expansion, rather) from those stripped-down, modest tunes to the sweeping, breathless epics of Teen Dream and now Bloom-the organ beats stick around. No matter how many layers of icy guitars, airy synth slabs, and Victoria Legrand's overdubbed voice get piled on, at the very core remains some clunky organ drumbeat to ground it all, to act as a sort of anemic metronome, to monitor the proceedings.
There it is on "Myth" to begin things-a lazy mechanized beat, quickly built upon with live drums, arpeggiated keys, and Alex Scally's deceptively simple guitar runs. At the forefront, as always, is Legrand's monster voice, all distinct timbre and icy glissando, with a tortured refrain of "Help me to make it/Help me to make it." It's a powerful opener, instantly on par with Teen Dream's finest.
"Other People" spirals high on verses (again, Legrand's glissandos adding visceral thrills) and drops into some sorrowful sing-song: "Other people want to keep in touch/Something happens and it's not enough/Never thought that it would mean so much/Other people want to keep in touch." Amen to that.
Later, "Wishes" gets quite beautiful, but still bubbles with that dark, almost Twin Peaks creepiness this duo so effectively summon. It's like a blurry, haunting Polaroid. It's the Beach House effect-the intoxicating cocktail of Legrand's voice and relatable lyrics, the reverb-soaked guitar and organ arrangements, and yes, those dusty old beats just barely audible beneath. It's always a perfect pairing of nostalgia and wistfulness with these two, who serve up these completely affecting but somehow ethereal moods you can't quite put your finger on. (www.beachhousebaltimore.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10