In some ways, the Baltimore-based band Beach House is like a good pizza. A testament to successful minimalism, they almost always result in a familiar and reliable sense of goodness with just a few ingredients.
It might not be something that surprises or shocks you, but it offers you a moment of satisfactory well-being to get you through the day.
Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally started their metaphorical pizza parlor in 2006, with Legrand contributing organ and Scally playing guitar and keyboards on their self-titled debut album.
“Beach House” and the subsequent “Devotion” (2008) provided the skeleton of ethereal and atmospheric pop songs that became fully realized on 2010’s gorgeous “Teen Dream.”
With bright, woozy guitar lines and textured organs and synthesizers, coupled with Legrand’s warm, hazy voice, Beach House seemed to be the undisputed champions of dreamy pop music.
“Bloom” is the fourth album from Beach House and as a relatively young band, the duo seems unlikely to strike out anytime soon.
In a statement released by the band, Legrand and Scally said, “The landscape of ‘Bloom’ was largely designed on the road, between the countless sound checks and myriad experiences during two years of tours…these spontaneous ideas were later gathered and developed in Baltimore, Maryland, where the band lives and works.”
Those ideas were then recorded in 2011 over seven weeks at Sonic Ranch Studios in Tornillo, Texas and was mixed at the infamous Electric Lady Studios in New York City.
Track opener “Myth” sweeps in with a sort of haunting but melodic organ, filled out by Scally’s reverb-heavy guitar, as Legrand sings, “What comes after this momentary bliss?”
Rather than undergo a metamorphosis every couple of years or between records, Beach House has a formula that works, and they don’t seem anxious to change things.
In an interview with Pitchfork Media earlier this month, Scally said, “I hate when bands change between records. They’re thinking before they make music.”
This is a notion that comes through in their music; there is still a lot of room for honest, original creation inside of their own dreamlike sound.
While “Bloom” floats along with an obvious relation to previous albums, there are some darker colors embedded inside it.
“Wild” builds on a looming squall of synthesizer before the drums trickle in and the track blossoms into Legrand’s sentiment, “Our father won’t come home/cause he is seeing double.”
“Lazuli” serves as a solid cross-section of the record as a whole. Moving along on arpeggiated synth lines, Legrand sings, “Like no other/you can’t be replaced.”
A centerpiece for the band’s trademark sound, Legrand’s sultry voice is as strong as ever. Lyrically, the album touches on lost love and hardship, but without cliché ruminations, making it feel genuine throughout.
The differences between songs are generally subsurface, allowing the record to blend together and flow nicely.
For new listeners, or those looking for one or two standout songs to throw on their iPod, this is really only the potential drawback.
This makes “Bloom” an appropriate title; each song seems to blossom in some way or another, whether lyrically or in terms of cyclical song structure.
Beach House stands as a relevant contemporary artist because of their dedication to creating beautiful and honest music inside of a realm that they have crafted and claimed as their own. “Bloom” is a simultaneously soft but strong statement from Legrand and Scally.
While some slower, more sentimental music might use nostalgia as a crutch and easy way to connect to an audience, “Bloom” is a record that instead creates a moment for the listener.
It’s interesting to imagine where Legrand and Scally will go from here. As pop musicians, they bring new life to a genre that suffers from a lack of honest sentiments. As artists, they have honed their aesthetic to a point where experimentation seems like the next probable step.
Regardless, fans of Beach House and new listeners alike will find it to be a familiar but refreshing breeze from some of contemporary music’s most gifted slow-rockers.