Review Summary: The most consistent band, in the worst way
Is it okay to sound exactly like another band? Flying Lotus, in a tweet that was widely (but maybe inaccurately?) interpreted as a diss, wondered this after listening to Beach House’s newest, Bloom, and I have asked myself the same question with each spin of my own. I mean, even if you disagree for some odd reason that Bloom sounds exactly like records by Cocteau Twins or countless other dream-pop acts, it’s at least pretty impossible to deny that Bloom represents some of the least amount of progression from one record to another of our major indie acts.
And I guess this is okay, because Bloom is still a good record, one I’ve listened to pretty consistently since its leak. It’s the work of a confident band that whittled down their sound to a point back in 08, and are perfectly content in revisiting this sound every few years or so, with minor variations here and there. It’s not like each new Beach House record is a case of diminishing returns, either: Bloom is as good as or better than Teen Dream, depending on, in my experience, the associations and feelings of the listener compared to when first having listened to the record; it’s harder, however, to make a case of significant difference in quality between the two.
So, basically, what we have here is another solid Beach House Album. And the major tweak this time around boils down to production, because that’s what Beach House albums essentially boil down to, right? They’re pretty much all production, all sound
, of whitewashed, shimmering guitars and airy vocals, Victoria Legrand singing lyrics that don’t matter and no one cares about, as long her voice hits the right tone that fits in with the tone of the guitars and the tone of the synths. Beach House practically assaults you with unassuming mid-tempo dream-pop, Bloom not excepted, its songs never getting too exciting or engaging but never for a second faltering, in quality or volume. Dynamics don’t exist with this band: they’re never loud or soft but constantly, maddeningly in the middle. Devotion and Teen Dream have established this winning formula (winning as in Best New Musics and increasingly larger font on festival posters), and Bloom has continued it.
But Bloom has also advanced it. For the first time, Beach House doesn’t sound like a bedroom act, destined to only be appreciated in sit-down venues, to be absolutely destroyed in a rock club. No: Bloom sounds larger and more expansive, the guitars shimmering more than they used to shimmer, the drums and bass benefiting enormously from a stronger low-end. “Myth,” for example, is practically percussion-driven, grounding a typical airy Beach House song, actually allowing their to-the-stars choruses and strong sense of melody to be appreciated, and not glossed over, by the listener.
So, yes, “Myth” and pretty much all the other songs on Bloom sound a little different, and a little better, than everything on Teen Dream or Devotion. But only just
better, like Beach House mathematically determined how much of a *** they would have to give when recording Bloom for most people not to notice, to not get called out on. They haven’t really, thus far: Bloom has continued making Beach House a Thing in indie music, a band that has a feasible future, that won’t be just forgotten and left by the wayside. It’s nothing to get excited about, but, hey, what else would you want to listen to anyways?