Even if you haven’t heard of Beach House, you would of most likely heard their song ’10 Mile Stereo’; a true music gem that featured heavily in the 2011 ‘Dark Life’ Guinness advert. Indeed, the song sums up that everything perfect about Beach House – and their third album Teen Dream – with its gentle melody, rich feathery vocals and quasi-shoegaze nature. Indeed, despite extremely positive reviews for both their first two albums, the 2010 effort fully propelled the duo to the forefront of alternative rock, giving them exceptional critical success and turning them into the torchbearer and pacesetter for other dream pop acts to follow.
Yet, such success can often be dangerous in that it only creates greater expectations for new material. Even more so in the case of Beach House with the marketplace becoming ever-more flooded with similar contemporaries such as Wild Beasts, Cults, Grimes and The xx who are all diversifying and expanding the genre.
And so, we come to the band’s new album, their 4th overall, titled Bloom. It is clear such pressure has not fazed the duo, made up of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, whatsoever; in fact, if Teen Dream was a great album, Bloom is even greater.
From the very first track ‘Myth’, it becomes apparent that the band have not lost any of their magic. A track built on twinkling guitars which rises into a beautiful and atmospheric peak that keeps you enthralled to the end. As it happens, the first line “drifting in and out” describes the very action the song will generate; this is subtle background music and emotional foreground bluster all rolled into one. ‘Lazuli’, which begins with a New Wave inspired keyboard beat, similarly rises into a overarching crescendo of upbeat percussion and overlapping voices. It’s hard not to get carried away with it all.
Indeed, this is a moment that shows Beach House’s very skill: the ability to create tracks which unfold and pull you in; the ability to start off with the mellow and becoming epic. Nowhere is this more apparent than standout track ‘Wishes’, with Legrand’s sultry harmonies floating across a landscape of ethereal air. 2 minutes and 20 seconds in, the song kicks into action with a My Bloody Valentine guitar solo and synthbeats that bring the song to a titanic close.
It has to be said though that Beach House and Bloom are not for everyone, for two main reasons. Firstly, despite the upbeat rhythms of many of theirs songs, Beach House are a band steeped in the dark, emotional and melancholy. ‘On The Sea’, for example, is presented like a film soundtrack for a funeral with its harrowing piano and and mournful guitar melody, with the stark lyrics “The heart is full and now its spilling” being the zenith of the sorrow. The Cocteau Twins kindred ‘Troublemaker’ bring this doom and gloom to a 80s sounding percussion backdrop. Even in their most cheerful and sunny, Beach House are playing with your emotions and looking for the dark and dreamy.
Secondly, this is an album built on similarity. Not in its theme as this is no concept album – Beach House are a band which lets it music do the talking – but in its continuous sound which many may find tedious and wearisome. This is an album that deserves to be listened to through the ears of the analogue era, straight through in all its pulsating glory. This is not an record of tracks, but a album in the most purest sense.
Indeed, 11 songs later and the journey is over. To be honest, I could listen to the album straight through, again, without hesitation. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes this album so charming, but charming it is. Like a walk on a sunny day, this is a record of such simple – but captivating – beauty that you can get lost in it; in the words of Legrand herself, “momentary bliss”.
Detractors will say that the album has less hooks and moments of its predecessor – and in that, I would agree. Indeed, at times, it is more dream music that pop. But nothing can take away from the sheer scale and elegance of the record that Bloom is. Scally and Legrand have taken the genre – which began nearly 10 years ago with the The Radio Dept.’s Lesser Matter – to a whole new height. Hyperbole and pretentiousness aside, Beach House have quietly gone about their business and may have produced one of the best albums of the year.