It’s a Vision
To the more causal listener, there may not be a high ratio of substance to style when it comes to Beach House. Undeniable masters at creating atmosphere, they’ve arguably focused too much on perfecting that atmosphere and not enough on filling it with actual songs in the past. 2008’s Devotion was a definite step in the right direction, revealing a good deal of quality songs and melodies to those willing to dig through the gossamer for them. With Teen Dream, Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand have grown tired of waiting for you to come to them. These songs pierce and shine straight through the fog without compromising any of the duo’s dreamy aesthetic, finally perfected here to positively gorgeous effect.
Much like what similarly minded group Grizzly Bear did with last year’s stunning Veckatimest (Ed Droste is a big fan), Beach House have taken the greatness that sprouted up in past work and nurtured it to full, epic bloom. Where songs were formerly content to drift in and out of the ears, they now have a powerful forward thrust. This is particularly evident on first single “Norway,” whose tumbling drums, droning guitar refrain and angelic sighs reveal the band’s purest pop epiphany to date. A similar propulsion helps the majestic opener “Zebra,” which brings the album to life with similarly insistent percussion and analog synths.
As immaculate as the instrumentation is on the record, this ship would be lost without a strong anchor, which it thankfully has in the commanding vocals of Victoria Legrand, who has finally, fully transformed from somnambulist to siren. This newfound attention to and conviction of her singing helps already excellent offerings like the somber “Silver Soul” and the soaring “10 Mile Stereo” (the best composition, if not song, of Beach House’s career) ascend to future classic material.
“It is happening again,” Legrand sings on “Silver Soul.” I dare say that for many, this album will help Beach House really “happen” to listeners for the first time. Between its pristine production, flawless sequencing, and devastating performances, Teen Dream is not only Beach House’s best album to date, but will surely be looked back on as one of the best albums of the year, as well as one of the new decade’s first great musical statements. One listen to this dream and you’ll never wake up the same, nor should you want to.