Beach House: Bloom

Beach House
(Sub Pop)
Rating: ★★★★☆

There are some bands who get stuck in a rut and keep reproducing the same album over and over again to diminishing returns. There are other bands who are so good at what they do that you wouldn’t really want them to change.

Beach House falls in the latter category. Their fourth release, Bloom, is by no means a departure from their first three, and will not disappoint those fans who came on board with their 2010 breakthrough, Teen Dream. It may be hard to tell one song from another at times on the album, so consistent is their approach, yet it yields powerful results just about all the way through.

For the uninitiated, Beach House consists of just vocalist/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally. (Daniel Franz, not an official band member, provides what live drumming there is.) Legrand writes the lyrics and sings in a truly original voice that calls to mind at different times Nico, Marianne Faithful, and Martha Davis from 80’s band The Motels. She usually wails aboard a thick bed of keyboards while Scally chimes in with precise guitar parts to provide melodic punch. He occasionally provides effects-heavy solos as well, the notes echoed and fractured to produce the maximum emotional punch.

And that’s pretty much the formula. Yet when it locks in, and it does often here, it’s hard to resist. Opening track “Myth” is a monumental kick-off, the keyboards walled to the point that every chord change seems to signal a shift in the Earth’s tectonic plates. “Wishes” is another true standout, tinkling arpeggios and Casio beats parlayed into a heartbreaker of epic proportions.

As a lyricist, Legrand builds intangible worlds where people drift around each other in a lush haze, always just missing the proper connection. She’s fond of evocative, enigmatic phrases like “Violence in the flowers” or “Daughter of unconscious fate” that have you scratching your head at times. Yet she can also catch you off-guard that something that hits right in the heart-bone. For example, on “Myth,” she asks a reticent lover “What comes after this/Momentary bliss,” before providing the painful answer: “The consequence/Of what you do to me.”

There’s a phrase she uses in “Wishes”: “The moment when a memory aches.” If I had to sum up the album, and the band’s music in general, that phrase would probably be my starting point. Maybe it’s beautifully sad, or maybe it’s sadly beautiful. I just know that the impact of Bloom lingers long after Scally’s last guitar moan and Legrand’s last breathy sigh, making you want to cue it up all over again and wallow anew in Beach House’s existential abyss.