Review Summary: Where do beach houses go in the Winter time?
Oh to be white and well off with nothing to do. There are about a million-and-one pitfalls spread out before any band that decides to make slow, mope-y music draped in reverb. Do they really have anything new to say? Are they just going to bore us? With 2012’s "Bloom", Baltimore’s sad-eyed suburban heroes, Beach House, seem to have become completely uninterested in pleasing us at all, in the process succeeding in creating a more satisfying work than anything they’ve put out as of yet.
Beach House have been a buzz band for a few years now, with acclaim for their work reaching a critical mass in 2010 with the release of "Teen Dream". On "Bloom", the formula remains in essence the same. Victoria Legrand’s vocals, which recall Nico with sufficient confidence, loom over dancing guitar lines and half-note synth swells. The electro-beats still click one-two-one-two with minimalistic conviction. But here there’s a much stronger focus; a narrower field of view if you like. It’s as if the band took the more beautiful parts of "Dream" into the lab, less to experiment than to observe, under the microscope, the tiny ways in which specific sounds interact, collide, and meld to form completely new entities.
This record is a study in the art of vague pop. Instead of sticking out (sometimes obtusely) as before, hooks emerge slowly and unobtrusively from the haze, only to slip back below the surface right as we start to catch on. It’s not that the band doesn’t try to help us understand their intentions. These songs quite literally bloom, layering gradually from the steady base of the constant rhythms until all that can be discerned is a beautiful grey cloud of sound.
The songs have a tendency to blend together, but there are a few stalwart gems. The opener, “Myth,” always seems to hit hardest, perhaps because it’s our entry point into Beach House’s sonic world. There’s a bit of culture shock, or at least a rapid change in air pressure. “New Year” is quite possibly their best yet. It’s both addictive and surprisingly complex, building and relaxing, eventually falling back on a fascinating kind-of-offbeat muffled drone that hints of wonderful things to come. The last track, “Irene,” happens to be the lengthiest, and carries on with the edgier side of things, fading after a relatively expected little 3 minute tune into a pounding break that lingers just long enough to be off-putting. The drums come back in, and, about 45 seconds later, Legrand begins reciting the ghostly mantra (may as well be the theme of the album), “It’s a strange paradise,” over and over again with the consistency of a broken record, while a couple of guitars whistle back-and-forth with increasing chaos until we reach an abrupt end.
In "Bloom", Beach House have succeeded in creating a listening experience. Take it all at once, and sitting down. They won’t be insulted if you go to sleep. It is dream music, after all.