Beach House, ‘Bloom’ — Album Review
Listening to Beach House‘s ‘Bloom’ is like standing on a beach with surf tickling your ankles. Listening to ‘Bloom’ is like discovering spring’s first buds. Listening to ‘Bloom’ is like waking up next to someone you just discovered you adore — and may be gone soon.
Unassumingly elegant and deceptively complex, Beach House deliver in ‘Bloom’ an album that delights at first blush and engrosses upon repeated listens. The Baltimore duo’s fourth release may be 2012′s best thus far — a soft-voiced paean to youth, love and other life-defining ephemera.
Victoria Legrand has begun to bear the full fruits of her sonorous and sensuous voice, a voice that at times lays upon the listener like a cat and at others haunts like a ghost just behind the door.
The instrumentation surrounding the French-born Legrand, supplied mostly by Baltimore native Alex Scally’s guitars and her own organ, expands Beach House’s breed of mesmerizing dream pop, creating an album that could have been released in any of the past four decades. The cliche is unavoidable: Like the best works of art, ‘Bloom’ is at once timely and timeless.
Now together for eight years, the duo of Legrand and Scally have continued to develop the direction of their previous releases, including 2010′s critic-adored ‘Teen Dream,’ and as such have delivered an album that refines as well as expands upon their previous work. Album opener ‘Myth’ awashes upon the listener a delicate description of romance as implied tragedy: “If you built yourself a myth / Know just what you did / What comes after this / Momentary bliss / Consequence / Of what you do to me.” Whether meditating on love, life, or death, Legrand has a soft touch when dealing with big themes: ‘Wild’ recalls childhood with a Galore-era Cure guitar hook; ‘Lazuli’ suggests a narcotic sexuality; ’Troublemaker’ describes destructive relationships.
Coming just before the midway point of the album, ‘Other People’ is a sure bet for singlehood, as a slow creme-brûlée opening builds to a breakthrough chorus. Scally’s crisp, understated guitar contrasts with Legrand at her sultriest. The total composition is a clinic in pop efficiency — every note is in its right place, every part contributes to the whole.
The album’s final highlight is in its second-to-last track, ‘Out on the Sea,’ in which Legrand muses on death. Scalley’s guitar is an angelic, otherwordly force floating above her consolations: “It’s not what you stole, it’s what they gave you.” The album reaches its catharsis at about 3:30 here, as organ, guitar, and Legrand’s soaring voice intertwine, carrying the listener into their ethereal realm.
To call this music dream pop doesn’t quite get it. ‘Bloom’ is an out-of-body experience.