Beach House is an indie rock duo formed in 2004 in Baltimore, Maryland by Victoria Legrand (vocals, organ) and Alex Scally (guitar, keyboards). At odds with their sunny name and the delirious indie electro coming out of Baltimore in the mid to late 2000s, Beach House make spellbinding dark, slow and beautiful music. Combining Scally's bright lead guitar with sparse drum machines, rich organ, and Legrand's striking, lugubrious vocals, Beach House set out the blueprint for their sound with their 2006 self-titled debut. Released on Carpark Records, the album received a positive critical reception and helped the band develop a modest cult following. The band continued to perfect and refine their core sound with 2008's Devotion (Carpark), and 2010's Teen Dream (Sub Pop), which helped the band expand to a much wider audience. The band’s highly anticipated latest effort, Bloom, was released in 2012, also on Sub Pop Records.
With their sleepy, overcast sound, Baltimore, Maryland's Beach House seems like an unlikely candidate to have released one of, if not the most hotly anticipated indie albums of 2012. Well, maybe it's not so surprising. The group's sound is dark, but it's also a deluge of some of the most hypnotically gorgeous melodies produced in the last decade. Their 2010 album Teen Dream is ten tracks of unrelenting beauty that shimmers at you from every angle, and luckily for the eager fans, Bloom is cut from the same cloth.
By this point, it feels like Beach House have nailed down a patented sound. They build a huge sound that envelopes the listener out of simple parts: slowly picked lead guitar, droning organs, skeletal programmed drum beats, and Victoria Legrand's husky, placid vocals. When everything comes together just right –which it often does– the effect is enchanting.
Much like Teen Dream, it's tough to pick out songs to highlight, basically every song on this album could be a single, so might as well start with “Myth,” the official first single. Like many Beach House songs, it starts with guitar and keyboard arpeggios that sound like a meteor shower meandering on a slow, whimsical path. They take their time getting to the chorus, letting Legrand's deep, measured vocals shine. By minute two the band clears the way for big ringing guitar chords and Legrand's even bigger vocals, shedding their lazy detached sentiment to rocket up and up. “Wild” edges closer to a traditional rock song with its propulsive rhythm and synths growling almost aggressively in the low end. But even as the band slips in slices of anthemic 80s-style guitar work the song still feels mystical, as if it was written and recorded in a trance.
Though Bloom still largely evokes starry nights and dark, blurry landscapes, it does lean towards some of the more hopeful springtime sentiments you'd expect from the title. “Lazuli” has an uplifting levity to it among the breathy sighs and sparkling keyboards, while the meditative “Irene” features Lagrande repeating “it's a strange paradise” through a beautiful haze of mushy pink melody.
While Bloom isn't a huge departure from the group's Teen Dream sound, when you've pinpointed a uniquely grandiose and downright transcendent sound, why change? For some bands, focusing on crafting a perfect song is more important than recreating the wheel with every new album, and we're happy as long as they keep crafting.