Beach House, Teen Dream
Perhaps one of the most-hyped bands of 2010, Beach House belies its sedate, ambient piety with energetic and really, really loud performances. Teen Dream was released in early 2010 and set the course for Beach House’s current aesthetic departure from their previous albums’ output. Ironically, it took them three albums to get there. But while they were noodling around in the studio for the last five years, cutting two LPs for the Baltimore indie scene, Beach House honed in on an expansive and delicate sound.
Album opener “Zebra” sets the tone for Teen Dream. At a major turn in the chorus, French-born Victoria Legrand’s feminine tenor intones, “Anywhere you run / You run before us,” and the power behind she and Alex Scally’s warm, yet heavy tremolo communicate real power. It’s a subtle difference from much of the material on their sophomore release, Devotion, which hinted at the melody and “dream-pop” sound so characteristic of Teen Dream but remains somehow so distinctly separate.
The songs are built around the interplay between Scally’s usually-buoyant guitar work and Legrand’s ambient synth/piano, which are sometimes completely engrossing. “Walk in the Park” uses a pulsing piano, George Harrison-esque guitars and manages to affect nostalgia, remorse, joy, and the entire spectrum of emotional color for any piece of music. At no point — and this could be what makes Teen Dream such a satisfying effort — are you overwhelmed or distracted by the ethereal songscape or by Legrand’s melancholy lyricism.
Where Beach House used to leave space for Legrand’s vocals and moving, progressive elements within the song, they now seem completely content to just play their instruments. Of course, they’ve beefed up their sound a bit, with meatier and bolder instrumentation, but they’ve still managed to retain the beautiful and understated foundation that made their earlier efforts worthwhile.
Judging by what the band has told interviewers, the departure grew out of a necessity to play “bigger” songs and a feeling of complacency with their older, more composed material. Now they bare their teeth through a wash of heavy, distorted mid-range tone, and it seems everyone has finally taken notice of this intelligent and subtle duo. Fresh off a memorable appearance at Coachella, Beach House are white-hot.