Review Summary: Would take the timeshare in the Keys over this in a heartbeat.
Much like their namesake, Beach House as a musical construct is an escape, a carefully crafted fortress of peaceful reverie surrounded on all sides by walls of dreamy indie pop and buttressed by vocalist Victoria Legrand’s soft wails. Those more fortunate than me retreat to beach houses to get away from bustling city life or for simple weekend excursions; hipster listeners and blogosphere addicts alike come to Beach House for musical restoration of another sort, but it all comes down to the same thing: peaceful, relaxing quiet. Teen Dream
, the duo’s third album (multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally being the other half) is their most fully realized effort yet, an album that truly captures the Beach House dynamic. It’s also much more exciting (well, as exciting as these two get) than 2008’s slothful Devotion
, and features some of the most tasteful melodies Beach House have ever put down.
But the same problem that has plagued Beach House their entire career crops up here again, despite Teen Dream’s
immediately fascinating soundscapes and seemingly effortless melodies. Whereas a beach house is generally considered a haven of sunshine, one of beauty and unrefined fun, Beach House themselves continue to craft songs that, while impeccably beautiful and fashioned with the delicate care of two master songsmiths, stand at a distance from the world, closed off by a sort of intangible iciness that lends too much of Teen Dream
an ethereal quality that makes it nearly impossible to connect to.
Not that this seems much of an issue to begin with. The first few songs are practically flawless examples of how dream pop should be done, from the lilting chorus of “Zebra” to the resonant guitar of “Silver Soul” to the relentlessly catchy hum of first single “Norway.” I found myself fairly shocked that Beach House was actually engaging me at this juncture in their career, when I thought they had exhausted all their limited sound had to offer. But after the jazzy hop-step of “Used To Be,” perhaps Legrand’s strongest performance and easily the record’s most upbeat song, the second half of Teen Dream
starts up and brings absolutely nothing new to the table.
It’s more a function of the Beach House vibe and mood rather than a failure of the band themselves that as Teen Dream
flows on, the record continues to become more and more expressionless and indistinctive. Legrand and Scally perfect the dream-pop formula on the first half of the record, but their failure is in continuing to do the same thing over and over again for the second. It’s not particularly bad; the harmonies are as sharp as they always were, the crystalline song structures are as pure as ever, and the musicianship is predictably gorgeous. It’s just that the overall sameness of the material lends itself to a running-together, a flow of the album that tends to lead songs into each other and make it harder and harder to distinguish between individual tracks.
It’s this cold attention to detail, a single-minded directive to match a dream-pop aesthetic that lends Teen Dream
its rather distant vibe and makes the album a success as a work of art, but one that seems strangely impersonal and aloof at the same time. Perhaps it’s Legrand’s androgynous vocals that so often seem restrained and unemotional, or the way the band treats melodic climaxes the same way they do the first verse of the song, with the same amount of ardor or lack thereof. It’s a shimmery, escapist release, without a doubt, but as anything more than a mild sleeping aid, Teen Dream
fails to rise above its genre.