While most have been singing the praises of Baltimore-based indie-pop duo Beach House
since their Sub Pop debut Teen Dream
in January 2010, the release of their fourth album has rendered earlier acclaim somewhat moot. Bloom
, a collection of ten songs penned by Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand, display a band confident in their sound, but most importantly tapping into a depth of artistry that is achieved by only a select few in each decade per genre. Beach House’s Bloom
is an album of non-stop excellence, honing in on the strengths of their established aesthetic. Also, Legrand and Scally bring in a grasp of melody and harmony that anchors the album in such a way that the listener never worries that Beach House has sold out and made a pop record, but also masks the fact that these songs have some of the band’s catchiest melodies and are indelible on the mind. It’s a venerable tour-de-force, and a perfect follow-up to an already exemplary album in Teen Dream
Opening track “Myth” also serves as the first single, and did a great job of bridging the eras between third and fourth record. It starts with a guitar, drum and eerie keyboard line that wouldn’t sound out of place on a new Bat For Lashes album, but after fourty-five seconds, the song yields to Legrand’s resonant and dark alto. It’s a voice that has been a trademark for the band, and certainly caused its understandable dissent among listeners and critics. But where many would have criticized her voice for being too abstract, masculine and veiled, Legrand brings a confidence and strength to these songs that are only buffeted by a strong melodic hook. Not only that, but when she sings “help me to name it,” she demonstrates an ease in using her upper register, which delightfully switches to full chest voice near the end of the song. It’s a major chord-minor chord flirtation construction, backed by a solid drumbeat and shimmering guitar/keyboard symbiosis, and easily one of the best songs of their discography.
They follow with “Wild,” with sounds like an iteration of “Myth” that has had a little more whiskey than it should and had a slight affair with Depeche Mode. The lyrics remain expressionist, but the chorus’ melody is tight, pleasing and wouldn’t sound out of place with a retro-R&B trio of backing vocals. But it is the third track, “Lazuli,” which also serves as the record’s second single, which is one of the high points of the collection. The first three minutes follows a fairly standard pop construction, but after that, the song morphs into this muscular, visceral outro where Legrand chants “Like no other you can’t be replace.” And when the bass kicks in after thirty seconds, it’s a delightfully melancholy, driving song that is pretty close to transformational.
“The Hours” is one of the most uptempo and accessibly melodic song that they’ve written, but it never feels overtread or trite. Instead, you find yourself singing along at many different parts, especially the “It’s deep than you / it’s deeper than me” third verse. “Troublemaker,” which was ostensibly written on the same day as “Myth,” has an enchanting verse structure, but then explodes into a chorus that feels both similar and utterly larger than the song itself. It’s a trick that Legrand and Scally have really mastered on Bloom
, in terms of turning their mildly droning, synth-laden dream-pop pieces and making them seem at one moment utterly alike, and then turning them completely on their heads and revealing so many layers underneath.
Perhaps the main criticism of Bloom
would be its analogous nature to Beach House’s last album, Teen Dream
. But where that record spent time brooding in its seemingly newfound pop leaning, which in turn engendered slight insecurity and wariness, Bloom
embraces the melodic sincerity of their work, and built over some of Legrand’s most insightful lyrics and Scally’s strongest instrumentation, the record does exactly what its title announces: open up and reveal a maturity and depth to the work that the band has certainly hit before, but never yet in such a cohesive, constant and compelling way.