Contender for 2010’s best album by far, Beach House produce a indolent epic of staggering lush escapism.
Bella Union 2010
Vinyl (GF x2 with DVD and download coupon)/ Download/ CD
1. Zebra (4:48)
2. Silver Soul (4:58)
3. Norway (3:54)
1. Walk In The Park (5:22)
2. Used To Be (3:58)
1. Lover Of Mine (5:06)
2. Better Times (4:23)
1. 10 Mile Stereo (5:03)
2. Real Love (5:20)
3. Take Care (5:48)
Victoria Legrand – Vocals
Alex Scally – Music
Chris Coady – Engineer and producer
Admittedly I’ve arrived somewhat late to the Beach House party, picking up on the odd favorable comment and recommendation with a nonchalant mantra of ‘yeah, yeah I’ll get around to them’.
Three albums of viscerally stunning musical suites later, and it has finally dawned on me that I’ve been missing something special.
My approach to this review is one of trepidation, having missed out on the last two offerings, but I shall endeavor to extol the virtues of Teen Dreams nonetheless.
Released originally back at the end of January, complete with an accompanying DVD, this pleasantly packaged album has been re-released recently with a unwelcoming price hike – I managed to grab one of the first editions luckily before they’d completely sold out – at least two record dealers telling me that the new version would set me back nigh on £30 on vinyl!
The increase, I’ve been told, is due to the production costs of the free disc, which to be honest could be ditched as the music videos on it look like they’ve been knocked out by a group of recovering insipid delinquents, who’ve just got in from an all night chemical digesting shindig thrown by Vice magazine. These films drift towards the banal and lack any connection to the music, instead focusing on some peculiar visuals of drug-induced paranoia.
There are a couple of gracious moments to save the DVD from complete ambivalence, including the touching, and at times David Lynch emotive, video for ‘Take Care’: An elderly lady dances and lip-synchs to a halcyon backdrop, wrapped up in the warm glow of some radiant religious and rapturous light.
Next time, if budget will permit, ask Wes Anderson or Matthew Barney to direct these vignettes, they could really lift them above the malaise and have a scream with the imagery.
This album is really a showcase for the sultry rasping and encapsulating pulchritude tones of Victoria Legrand, whose French ancestry adds a touch of Gallic resignation and effortless cool to the floating hypnotizing vocals on display.
She coos and ahhs through the daydream psyche-pop and cinematic richly layered songs, smothering us in a diaphanous quilt, whilst caressing us with words of comfort and assurance at every turn.
At times Legrand suddenly ages a good twenty years, her transfixing voice sounding like a Gauloise chain-smoking and Bourbon gargling Nico fronting The Walkmen. She must leave suitors in her wake.
There is also the matter of comparisons to Natasha Khan, especially on the tracks ‘Real Love’ and ‘Lover Of Mine’, where a certain resemblance to some of the material on Two Suns becomes particularly apparent.
The backing emphasis this fact at times, with grand emotive stark pianos and that same psychedelic 80s haziness that verges on the effects of being put under anesthesia, but then Khan pushes toward the more serene and downbeat rather then the blissful tumult of the music found on this record.
Beach House far from sounding morass, mix both elements of 70s folk and swirling shoegaze to create startling mini masterpieces of inspiring beauty.
All this works at its best on the stand out track ’10 Mile Stereo’, where Legrand lays bare a heartening rush of arousing emotion, the likes of which Florance Welch can only dream of ever obtaining.
An alluring translucent aura issues forth, pulling at the old heartstrings, whilst sweeping layers of brightly lit atmospherics and sostenuto guitar keep the smog of intensified elation building, whilst cymbals gently shimmer away and puncture the intoxicating sound of drama – possibly contender for the song of the year slot on this blog.
Other outstanding tunes include the re-recorded 2008 tune ‘Used To Be’, which is given a careful update and minor tweak in its production.
Legrand peppers the lyrics to this song in a staccato like manner, helped along by some enchanting melodies of transient shifting quality.
Also the harpsichord rose-tinted ‘Take Care’, really soars, with its Pet Sounds evocative leanings and achingly felicitous vocals. This song offers affectionate and endearing postulations that ride over a sumptuous multilayered blanket of meticulous melody, acting as an empyrean scaling lament that brings a tear to even the most stone dead bastard’s eye.
To be fair it would be easier to maybe just mention the more disappointing songs, of which only ‘Norway’ qualifies, as every track near enough grows on you eventually.
Legrand’s foil in Beach House is fellow Baltimore resident Alex Scally, the man responsible for the lush extravagant sound washes and richly textured pianos, which for the most part sway towards the majestic.
The only irritating feature is the introductory bossa-nova pre-set that brings in most of these tunes, like some sort of ever present metronome that constantly ticks away in the background. For the most part this feature is usually lost and smothered in the rest of the heavily soothing relaxing atmosphere, but it does remind us that Beach House maintain a fairly similar pace throughout the entire LP.
In part the triumphs of this record are due to the production of Chris Coady, who’s laid those much sought after talents of his on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio, Foals and Gang Gang Dance.
Here he steers the duo towards a more polished and satisfactory focused direction, paying attention to their strengths of vocals and slow burning melodies to produce a comprehensive opiscule of class.
‘Teen Dreams’ is seeped in a certain effulgence of nostalgia, the already mentioned accompanying music videos offering up the occasional sepia aged cine-film images of a kids birthday party and surreal painted waltzing actors, that step out of some ulterior universe in slow motion, grinding through the daily trudge and blankly starring back into their own little worlds. This expressionless cast of teenage characters seem to be caught in a trance of lackluster apathy, lost in the mire and awaiting some kinds of instruction – Beach House have written the soundtrack to this between the realities state, mirroring the same horizons as both Deerhunter and No Age, yet in a more pleasant manner.
Please keep these records coming.