Beach House puts dream pop on the charts

BY JESSICA CAP ’16
Early Edition Contributing Writer

Hushed hi-hat quickly fades into a tick behind a tom-heavy tribal beat; nearly hypnotized, a clean tenor ushers you on a guided tour of head-bob-land. Intro-track “Myth” sets the tone for Beach House’s fifth album Bloom, an entrancing expansion on the duo’s dream-pop sound.

Beach House, Baltimore’s dream-pop dream team, recently released their fourth album, Bloom, in May 2012. The album’s title Bloom elicited some contesting. Much like the previous two albums, Bloom seemed like a continuation of the band’s second album Devotion and top-amassing third album Teen Dream. Was Bloom really “Bloom-ing,” or merely continuing along the previous, safe sound?

Unlike Devotion and especially unlike Teen Dream, Victoria Legrand, lead singer, and Alex Scally, on guitars and piano, softened and simplified their sound. Many tracks start with Legrand’s hypnotic voice, as opposed to the automatic drum track beginnings of Teen Dream. However, simplifying the melodies does not necessarily mean a simple sound. The interludes in many tracks provide a textured, nuanced brilliance. Meant as a concept album, Bloom’s intent is also continuity. For the listener, Bloom’s true magic is found when listened from start to finish.

In “Wild,” Beach House went wild with a building, and eventually underlying, drumline. Considered one of the leading tracks on the album, the seasoned lyricists captured both naiveté and knowledge: “And in a while / You start a smile / The earth is wild / We’ve got no time.” Speaking of parental death, they capture the feelings, yet also the yearning questions of loss perfectly.

“Lazuli” begins with synth riffs, followed by a bigger Legrand voice, straying from the typical dream-pop fragile melody.

Reminiscent of the artist’s name, “On the Sea” boasts a swinging, cascading, dreaming piano. It dons the lyrics, “Out on the sea we’d be forgiven / Our bodies stopped the spirit leaving / Wouldn’t you like to know how far you’ve got left to go.” Reminiscent again of the artists, the lyrics speak to Beach House’s musical journey.

Track after track of Bloom only further solidifies the feeling that Beach House has a lot of albums and music left to create. With that, Devotion and Teen Dream follow a similar musical path: breathy lyric delivery, with keyboard or slide guitar breaks. Devotion and Teen Dream had many overlapping songs; for example, “Gila” and “Turtle Island” (2008) and “Silver Soul,” “Real Love” (2010). Bloom, while still continuing down Beach House’s musical path, takes slight detours to synth land (“Lazuli”) and drumline city (“New Year,” “Wild”). One can only wait for what exciting new turns Beach House will take in future albums.

For the duo, music has always been near. Legrand was born from musicians, and thus her gift of combining lush instrumentals and softly burgeoning vocals came as second nature. Studying at Paris’ International Theatre School of Jacques Lecoq, Legrand became accustomed to performing. The classical training pays off in the track “On the Sea” with Legrand’s beautiful mix of classical organ and soaring voice. Alex Scally, the second half of the duo, arose from much more humble beginnings. Never classically learning or studying the instruments he would revolutionize in Beach House—slide guitar, bass guitar—he could break the rules of music and make his own name. Together they produce musical magic—whimsical, far-reaching, and ethereal.

Starting small, Beach House’s fan base grew. The fans were small in number and obsessively devoted, albeit not unlike most bands in the dream pop circle. Dream pop, sometimes known as alternative pop, sometimes merely classified as “indie,” claims the musical aesthetic of uncomplicated, high voices, an intense and thoughtful lyric movement, sighs, wails, and sans the gaudy, rock riffs. Trippy from the cover art to the vocals, dream pop is not for all. Yet for many, the intense, thought-provoking material provides a much needed escape from the lurid mainstream sounds. Other artists who subscribe to the hypnotic genre include Fleet Foxes, Animal Collective, Lykke Li, and Youth Lagoon.

With Bloom, Beach House’s popularity slowly climbed and then peaked at number one of certain U.S., U.K., and European charts. Rated “Best New Music” on the popular and trusted music website, Pitchfork, Bloom as with Beach House, has in fact bloomed. In one of Bloom’s tracks, “Other People,” Legrand sings out, “was it ever quite enough.” Well, in the eyes of dream pop followers and music lovers alike, Bloom is more than enough.

Questions? Email Jess at jessica.cap@fandm.edu.

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