Beach House - Teen Dream
Record Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: Jan. 26, 2010
Resplendent. That's the easiest way to describe the third album Teen Dream by Baltimore's Beach House. The tandem of French-born Victoria LeGrand and Maryland native Alex Scally have been a hit since their self-titled debut four years ago. With spartan arrangements, a summery name and an alluring frontwoman Beach House made a splash from the start. 2008's critically lauded Devotion set the band on a new path, landing them an opening spot for buzz band Grizzly Bear and winning the hearts of hipsters the world over. Teen Dream, however, takes things to a whole new level.
Opener "Zebra," sets the tempo from the get-go. Lush, vibrant, inoffensive and pristinely performed, the track is an immediate step forward from Devotion. Whereas their previous releases drew heavily on a sparse and spindly approach to woozy cooing, Teen Dream seems to draw more on sensory details. Scally has admitted that he wanted the effort to be a "makeout and hard-grinding record," and the disc's limitless swoops and swirls induce that very sentiment.
With a veneer that's decidedly European, the tandem marches forward on the slow-burning "Silver Soul," allowing both LeGrand and Scally to prove their mettle. Whether its inherent skill, copious amounts of practice or just dumb luck, there's something about the execution of their craft, that is so deeply felt it stretches beyond just comfort and well-worn intimacy. On the delicate charmer "Norway," the duo carries things forward with a hazy, nocturnal veneer that's equal parts jaunty, propitious and majestic. Though the band is just three songs in, they've already made a most important artistic statement and seem to be the torchbearers for 21st century dream pop.
While Scally's sleepy guitarwork certainly helps paint a vibrant picture, the shining star is clearly LeGrand. She has a striking vocal ability, which allows her to wrap her alto around a comfortable palette of luminescent guitars, airy pianos and rich reverb. Never once does she overstate, underperform or disappoint. She just has it. And man is it something. A prime example of her "it factor," is lead single "Used To Be," which features solacing piano and an assuaging organ melody that does so much with so little. A soft cymbal here, a twinkling chime there, never once does the tandem go for the throat or do something alienating. For most bands such an exercise in intimacy and limitation would be a colossal failure, but this duo seems to know exactly how to pull it off.
Though the disc's latter half lumbers along with sliding guitars, hissing organs and teetering melodies, Chris Coady's accomplished production never allows any of the back-half to be torn asunder. An elucidation of this is the lingering torch-song "So Long," which gives way to a swirling vacuum of crashing organs, airy gaps and a celestial swirl that's both chilly and churning. The crescendo towards the end is arguably one of the album's crowning moments. By the time hypnotic closer "Take Care," rolls around, the urge to start the disc back up again is far too hard to resist.