Review Summary: There's something perpetually charming about Beach House and Teen Dream is their best release yet.
Ever since their eponymous debut album began gracing the ears of eager listeners, Beach House's reputation has been passed along by whispers through cupped hands; they were everybody’s well-known little secret. Their dreamy follow-up Devotion continued where its predecessor left off, curling up comfortably inside the hearts of those lucky enough to pay attention to the reasonable amounts of hype it received, garnering the critical praise of several large indie publications in the process. With their third album, Teen Dream, the duo return to remind everyone just why they fell so truly, madly, deeply in love with the husky-voiced Victoria Legrand and her multi-instrumentalist cohort Alex Scally, and by no small margin is this their best effort to date.
Legrand has always been the main talking point when it comes to the band but never has the vocalist deserved the praise as much as now. In fact, Legrand’s performance on Teen Dream is so inspired, it makes Devotion, in all its sophistication, come across as flat-footed in comparison to Teen Dream’s ballerina, floating from toe to toe with precision, elegance and sexually-ambiguous grace (the number of people who think Alex also sings is staggering). The chanteuse captures an intimate charm akin to the likes of Nico and wispy clouds of cigarette smoke drifting in and out of underground jazz lounges and such is her seemingly nonchalant, effortless command of it that songs like the achingly reflective “Used to Be” live and die by her delicate touch.
It would be uncharacteristically ungrateful of me to ignore Alex Scally’s role in the mix, however, as the instrumental backbone of the group is vital in constructing the atmospheric, languid quality that makes Teen Dream a genuine experience. “Lover of Mine” showcases some exquisite keyboard and guitar melodies that at moments even outshadow Legrand, although it’s not a case of one against the other but rather the full force of the two as a duo and nowhere is that as potent as it is on “Norway”. In what is almost certainly the most single-handedly remarkable moment of Teen Dream, “Norway” opens with the breathy, melodic humming of Legrand over shimmering, harp-esque guitars that feel nearly as engulfing as the deep, sensual tone Legrand channels during the verses that follow.
Though Devotion and their self-titled debut both utilized a much rawer approach, Teen Dream features very noticeable changes in production. Like sandpaper to a rough edge, the production on Teen Dream creates a far smoother, lighter sounding Beach House and it’s a sound that is far easier to appreciate than before. Criticism can be levied in the form of monotony – some might find the tracks too similar sounding and it’s true that most of them build upon the same values but with only 10 tracks, it’s just long enough to be rewarding but short enough to not overstay its welcome. Whereas anything more may have begun to tip the scale and even – dare I say it – become boring, Teen Dream ends with its dignity in tact; a statement that perhaps cannot always be attributed to the theme of the record.
At it’s heart, Teen Dream is a high school romance: gushing, naïve and heartbreaking among other things and the aesthetic beauty of the album is complemented strongly by the thematic sincerity that Legrand portrays. “Walk in the Park” falls in and out of love, it’s all happening again and again and again for “Silver Soul” and closer “Take Care” sees Legrand assure us, “I’ll take care of you / if you ask me to” in one of the more comforting sentiments of the record and one that sends Teen Dream to it’s end quite fittingly. Rest assured, Beach House will see you through some lonely nights.