sLet’s cut to the chase: This is a stunningly gorgeous and aptly titled record. Beach House has been winning fans with their unique brand of entrancing indie-rock for years. Bloom the fourth studio album from the Baltimore duo is far and away the most engrossing and stunning album they have made to date. Although I enjoyed portions of Beach House’s previous record Teen Dream (another brilliant title), I often found myself feeling there wasn’t enough variety and diversity from track to track. On Bloom the band has broken free from the chrysalis of their own-making. This album pushes the trademark Beach House sound fans have grown to love, layered, whimsical, dream-pop, to a whole new level. This isn’t Dylan going from folks songs to electric but it is still a marked evolution. Teen Dream for all its beauty felt like an introspective and pensive record. From the outset, Bloom bursts into your face as though the band was shedding an old skin for a newer more celebratory yet aggressive tone. Throughout the record, allusions to various other bands of the dream-pop persuasion manifest themselves from the British electronic/downtempo/Ibiza-lounge group St. Etienne, see “Wild”, to the Swedish duo jj to the American trio Blonde Redhead, see “New Year”, and even to the more recent efforts by The Walkmen, see You & Me and Lisbon.
What has always and continues to be the distinguishing feature of Beach House’s sound is the unique dream-world vocals of lead singer Victoria Legrand and the lush and nuanced orchestration composed by Victoria and Alex Scally. However, on Bloom, the band finds new ways to exploit her voice. On “Wild”, they overlay a series of vocal lines creating a choir-like effect. In the ensuing track, “Lazuli”, Victoria starts the song with a breathy, panting harmony. Later in the record, “The Hours” (my personal favorite) begins with a curious off-beat doo-wop harmony, returns to the tried-and-true dream-pop sound and culminates in a refashioned 50s-era sounding chorus, evoking bygone days on seaside piers. I particularly adore how Victoria and Alex play with your expectations on the chorus portion of “The Hours”, “Change your mind, don’t care about me” – shifting on the second stanza to a series of notes higher than the first stanza. This song exemplifies why this album resonates with me more than the previous one: subtle variations on a familiar sound that broadens the range and depth of what they have previously created. Also, speaking of retro sounding, “Wishes” brilliantly weaves in a subtle allusion to “Moon River”, giving the song a quasi a-temporal quality. More than anything this album is a fascinating aural reverie. The guitars, percussion, synthesizers, and vocals wash over you in a series of cascading and kaleidoscopic sounds. It’s breathtaking in its simplicity and entrancing in its richness. It rewards the attentive and passive listener in equal parts and will serve as a gorgeous backdrop to the coming summer.
Listen to Bloom in its entirety here.
If you like this record, check out:
- St. Etienne – Sound of Water
- jj’ – No. 2 and No. 3
- Blonde Redhead – 23
- The Walkmen – You & Me and Lisbon
Audiophile Note: This is most definitely an album best listened to on speakers, quality headphones, and/or (if at your disposal) on vinyl. Because of the high quality engineering and intense layers of sound, especially at the low ends, the album benefits from some quality re-production. On computer speakers and ear-buds, the breadth of the sound gets truncated and can at times sound a little tinny.