For even the casual music fan, Beach House needs no introduction at this point, but let us review the story in broad strokes. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally began working as a duo in 2004, and soon found success beyond the Baltimore music and arts underground with their signature sound, soon christened “dream pop.” In 2012, we find them on the cusp of cementing their success on a national if not global level.
As opposed to a left turn, Bloom is a straightforward continuation. This would be a problem if the band’s sound was in danger of becoming dated. However, their recreating of timeless pop tropes somehow transcends nostalgia and keeps them in the now. Let’s see how they pull it off.
Tracks like first single “Myth” and “Wild” move along with an undercurrent of percussive motion before we are once again in the house of Legrand, the world of the luxuriating voice. Alex and company build aural landscapes around her and her keyboard. Victoria’s ear for a good hook remains deadly and dead on, each song mixtape worthy.
Second single “Lazuli” is a wonderful mesh of cheesy synth demo-tones and lush studio production. The tiny parts anchor the expansive parts while the live drumming and cymbal splashes keep the proceedings lively.
“Other People” builds and builds until we hit the limit, the song suddenly left-turning into a chorus worthy of Burt Bacharach. The disconnection of modern life is the perceived subject, something as simple as keeping in touch given a kind of aching and longing that is both explanation and apology.
To call “The Hours” more catchy than the rest of the album is somehow wrong, but there is something so right on when the driving guitar lead kicks in and Victoria begins singing. We are in the land of the “oh woah” moment.
The record is replete with many similar “oh woah” moments: when the chorus breaks in like the dawn on “Troublemaker,” the amazing woozy bridge on “New Year". The listener may begin to hallucinate that this is some kind of compilation of the greatest pop songs of all time instead of an album by one group.
“Wishes” feels classic, like a lost Henry Mancini tune. Then, when the big Ringo Starr-style drums kick in, you can see the crowds going wild, Victoria holding that note, the audience entirely with her. This feels like the last song of the set before the encore and feels perfectly placed on the album.
Album closer “Irene” is the one time when the veil of gorgeousness is lifted, the guitar drone allowed to grow and become too repetitive for an interval, a bit of salt to balance out the sugar. Does this moment of discord have something to do with the lyrics, the “strange paradise” the band has found itself in with their success? As the track ascends into heaven, we are back to blissed-out pop and the questions subside.
The highly-anticipated Bloom delivers, adding another chamber to the wonderful musical journey Beach House finds themselves on. Old traditions and new pop innovations meet and make sweet music together. This is a feat that can be appreciated by long-time listeners and those new to the group, the resulting album a marvel to behold.