Music, Music Commentary, Music Reviews

Review // Beach House: Bloom

May 14, 2012

Review | Beach House: Bloom

In a recent interview with Pitchfork‘s Jenn Pelly, Beach House multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally revealed his frustration with the changing ways in which we listen to music:

“A lot of people listening to music now don’t listen to the songs or lyrics at all. They just go, “Good tones…” and that’s it. But we’re obsessed with songs. Sometimes, I feel like people aren’t listening to our songs, they’re just listening to the sound. “

Scally’s chagrin can be viewed as a gripe with twenty-first century music as a whole. In an age where music is both easily accessible and easily dismissed, the dual arts of album structure and song writing have been lost amongst many artists.  Taking this into consideration, Beach House, a Baltimore-based dream pop duo, can be seen as traditionalists in the world of modern indie music. Over the course of four albums, including 2010’s sonic opus Teen Dream, the Beach House sound has remained steady, slowly improving with thoughtful refinements.

On the aforementioned Teen Dream, Scally and vocalist Victoria Legrand expanded upon the lush, reverb-laden sounds that dominated their two earlier albums. It was a critical and commercial darling, and was regarded as the high point of the duo’s career. Bloom, Beach House’s latest release, doesn’t stray too far from where they left off in 2010. It’s the songs that are different, not the sounds; a conscientious decision made by Scally and Legrand that has certainly paid off. In short, Beach House have created their masterpiece.

The opening track, ‘Myth’, acts as a microcosm of the entire album; a short statement of what is to come. The drum machine beats, viscous guitar, wispy keyboard playing and Legrand’s smoky, melancholy vocals sound familiar, yet altogether more insular. Whereas Teen Dream was an outwards sonic and emotional explosion, Bloom sees the band taking a more internal approach. ‘Myth’ speaks of a band lost in their own creation, unsure of where to go:

“Found yourself in a new direction / Aeons far from the sun / Can you come? / Would they come to greet you? / Let you know you’re not the only one”

To speak about the merits of any individual songs on this album would be redundant. On Bloom, Beach House have taken their time. Like lapping waves on the shore, each track slowly approaches, before quickly spilling over and receding to let the next one move in. They flow together in a way that is natural but not congruous, making for a perfect listening experience.

Bloom is about the cyclical nature of both music and the world in which we live, and the beauty and challenge that it brings. Nature is, at its core, a cycle that repeats itself, often to surprising results. Everything that we know, from flowers to records to human existence, has a definite start and finish. It’s an unlikely muse, but for Beach House, there is a strange perfection to be found within all of the world’s imperfections.

The concept is a tricky one to execute, one that straddles the line between inspired and banal.  Unsurprisingly, Beach House have pulled it off with just enough acute observation and wide-eyed wonder that it comes across as insightful and mysterious, all while retaining their swoon-worthy sound.

“It’s a strange paradise” slurs Legrand on the stunning closer ‘Irene’, quietly summing up the album’s allure. Bloom is glacial yet endearing; small, but expansive at the same time.  It is remarkable because it is conscious not only of its environment, but also of  itself. Brilliantly, Beach House have used the format of an album to comment on our collective human experience. Life, much like this record, is a beautiful, temporary and perfect paradise. Bloom invites you to get lost.

Written by: Brennan McCracken
Review of Bloom by Beach House
Date published: 05/14/2012
5 / 5 stars

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