ALBUM REVIEW: Beach House – Bloom

Written for the 405

You expect a beach house to be a place of escape. Somewhere outside of the usual but, also, something that is comforting in the way that it never changes. Dependable.

(I mean, I assume. I don’t own a beach house. I’m not Andrew Collins.)

Bloom is album number four from Baltimore duo Beach House. So far, the pair have managed to avoid any spray of backlash from the encroaching critical tides. That’s despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that they stick with their limited but effective basic set-up for every album, with little to no divergence: Alex Scally lays down basic drum beats and layers on guitars and Wurlitzer organs we’re all-but-contractually-obliged to describe as “swirling”, a setting which French-born Victoria Legrand populates with her elegant voice, which has matured nicely since the band’s self-titled début. They’re a well-oiled machine.

This is where the review splits off into two possible trains of thought. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure kind of review.

First of all, yes, this album is Beach House as usual. There really isn’t much new on offer here that you haven’t heard on Beach House, Devotion or Teen Dream. Everything is slow-paced, melancholic, atmospheric and seeped in a sun-kissed haze. “What comes after this?” Ms Legrand asks rhetorically on opening track “Myth”, answering: “Momentary bliss.” Pretty much: if you’re already a Beach House fan, you will enjoy the album for its similarities to their previous. It feels comforting. Dependable. But also, is it not getting a little boring? Bands have received critical lashings for less than this. It doesn’t feel particularly lazy of Beach House, but it does seem a little unadventurous.

On the other hand…Beach House themselves are aware of the fact that they don’t “change” their sound that much. And apparently, they hate it when bands do that. “They’re thinking before they make music.” There’s a case to be made for Beach House being something like the author that obsessively tackles the same themes in every one of their books, looking for the answer to their problems or just the best way to express something; similarly, in the film makers who put out endless director’s cuts, never happy with what they’ve made. The album’s title, Bloom, speaks to this cyclical feel of Beach House’s music. With each album they’re exploring their own little insular sonic world, seeing what they can do with what they’ve got, partly because they haven’t much interest in anything else. And there’s something fascinating about that; for a while, at least.

I don’t want to sound like I hate this album or anything. It’s still effortlessly, languidly gorgeous, in Beach House’s own individual way. “Lazuli”, especially, a song based around repeating scales of fuzzy keys and Legrand’s more breathy, intimate vocals over a song which eventually, well, blooms, is a beautiful track. “Irene”, too – the final track on the album – takes its time even more than usual, building slowly into a Beach House “ballad” with the refrain “It’s a strange paradise”.

Even though I enjoy it, throughout the album I have that nagging feeling in the back of my head: “We’ve heard this all before”. Honestly, did I not know certain tracks particularly well, I would not be able to tell any Beach House album apart.

Beach House haven’t bothered re-inventing the wheel, because it keeps on spinning just fine. But there’s only so long you can watch a spinning wheel, y’know?

6/10

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: