Beach House are a Baltimore duo who over their 8 year long career have grown to be one of the most acclaimed and adored bands of modern music. Singer-keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally have sculpted a sound which embodies some of the purest love songs released over the past 5 years while retaining a rigorously determined artistic direction. Their latest release, ‘Bloom’, sees the band once again release a superb album and promises to be one of the best of the year. They are a band who have become recognised for their attention to detail and an adoration which permeates all of their work.
Beach House’s recording history has always been one of evolution; their 2006 eponymous debut was a sparse, hazy beginning to their career. This was followed by the far more innovative ‘Devotion’, which still had the same lo-fi, hazy aesthetic, but witnesses a significant jump in song writing. ‘Teen Dream’ saw the band expand in terms of production, adding a crisp sheen to the entire album to provide clarity to an equally expansive approach to instrumentation. As such, ‘Bloom’ is by far the least transformative of their albums, this album bares a great number of similarities to ‘Teen Dream’, however, this is by no means a negative aspect of the album. Across their career Beach House have crafted their art and streamlined it to the point where evolution is not as necessary as perhaps maintaining the high standard already set by their previous albums, a feat which is accomplished by ‘Bloom’.
Opener “Myth” sets the mood perfectly, complete with glistening guitar solos, a driving bass line and a chorus which takes a complete hold of your attention. Along with “Wild” and “Lazuli”, ‘Bloom’ begins with a powerful opening trio ejecting drive and vibrancy into the opening quarter of the album. The brittle guitar lead of “Troublemaker” plays off exquisitely against Legrand’s breathy delivery, “When you walk away will you show me how? Come pull me under”. Lyrically this song demonstrates Legrand’s frailty, painting her as both determined and dependent. Throughout the entire album, Legrand’s vocals are defined by falling so desperately in love that it leaves you disarmingly vulnerable and learning to embrace this.
“On The Sea” is the closest the album comes to a straight ballad, driven by a gentle piano progression, Legrand’s vocals soar above with a powerfully cathartic delivery. “Shadows bend and suddenly the world becomes and swallows me in” despite bordering on the ridiculously fragile, Legrand’s delivery is second to none. The song is captivatingly emotive and excels where Beach House have so many times in speaking to the listener directly.
‘Bloom’ also offers some more direct moments such as “Wishes” a song characterised by arpeggios and string synths, making for a mystical atmosphere to the song. Scally provides vibrancy through his guitar work, contrasting Legrand’s delicate vocals against thick, bass-driven riffs. The penultimate song, “Irene” serves as practically a 6 minute coda for the entire album, Scally’s sharp, reverb-heavy guitar cuts through the song adding an urgency to the poignant climax to the album. “It’s a strange paradise”, whispers Legrand gently as the synths swell to a crescendo.
‘Bloom’ makes for one of the most cohesive listening experiences in Beach House’s career. Whereas its predecessor was characterised by standout singles and explorative sombre pieces, ‘Bloom’ strikes the midpoint perfectly. There are definite highpoints on the album, but these are the moments which are characterised by subtly rather than individuality.
One of the newest developments to Beach House’s sound is the use of synths, to the most part Beach House’s previous use of synths were charmingly sparse, now they’ve embraced a diversity of synths to expand their sound into new sonic territory. The production of Scally’s guitars has equally been improved, his parts oscillate between bright, unassuming arpeggios and striking, crisp riffs. The interplay between the synths, the guitars and Legrand’s voice accentuate the crafted brilliance of the album. The instruments are applied sparingly so that they don’t overpower the album, but still remain ever-present throughout.
The reason why I continue to be drawn to Beach House is because they are a band who treat not only their audience with respect, but their subject matter as well. Beach House are one of the most sincere artists to sing about love so openly, they don’t dumb down the subject like so many artists do. Instead they explore the feelings love inspires and lay bare their own feelings creating a level of mutuality with the listener. The shear level of this intimacy invites you to be absorbed into the music and it is this bizarre relationship which permeates their music and is effectively executed once again on ‘Bloom’.