Beach House – Teen Dream (2010)

Beach House – Teen Dream (2010) Review

This is an (my) Album-of-the-Year contender. Watch, the opening song “Zebra” will be used somewhere (maybe many times) this year, in a film, in an ad, a sporting slow-mo, a telethon, something where they need that slightly obscure musical reference to tug the heartstrings or something. It’s such a beauty, I’d put money on it. This has got new-crying/hopeful-anthem-for-the-21st-Century-underground written all over it. (Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s “Maps”/ The Shins’s “New Slang”/ The Flaming Lips “Do You Realise??”/ The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights”/ The Arcade Fire’s “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”…you know the list.) And this is not hyperbolic hot-air. As the guitar line trots out, and is joined by the cantering pulse of keyboard and drums, the voices of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally start praying a choral arc, the song is already mapping an exciting destination. Then as the song kicks into gear and gallops past the 2-minute mark, you’re riding one of the coolest songs of 2010. In fact, “Zebra” is gonna bolt away and stalk us in future hills. Victoria’s voice is great, it reminds me of Cat Power or Martha Wainwright, if they were born as Jim Morrison. Which may sound weird. But there is a swagger to her voice. There is mystery to it. Like Jimbo, there are worlds in that voice. She twists some of those getaway notes in deeper, lower registers, crooning lyrics that would make The Lizard King proud: ‘You know you’re gold, you don’t gotta worry noneOasis child, born and so wild’, and a chorus announcing: ‘Any way you run, you run before us…Black and white horse arching among us’. In fact, she could start speaking at any moment, reciting urgent verse that rallies us to ‘break on through to the other side’, and it wouldn’t seem out of place (or derivative) at all. (I’d be the first to grab the tattered standard and march forward.) Not that this is Martha-folky or Doors-rocky. (One could reference Bat for Lashes [“Norway”], Fleet Foxes [“10 Mile Stereo”] or even Mazzy Star [“Silver Soul”] at points). It’s more like a dreamy, psyched-out blend of lonely pop and a droney-keyboard re-imagining of Fleetwood Mac’s moody moments. (If Beach House broke in to “Rhiannon”, you wouldn’t think it was a cover…well you would, but you know what I mean). The subtle beauty of this album sideswipes you, and you go from thinking this is a ‘nice album’ to a ‘damn good album’ to a ‘great album’. Nothing seems overpowering. The guitar and drums are creative and understated, and her vocals are husky and strong and on this, their 3rd album, they’ve produced something truly special. It has an effect. Feel free to disappear into this album. There are things inside these songs we’re meant to know about. Mysteries within mysteries. Like Dave Bowman’s final transmission: ‘My god, it’s full of stars!’


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