Teen Dream

08.02.10 Words by: Charlie Jones

Last year, Memory Tapes went all dreamy Electro with ‘Seek Magic’ (read the review) and Washed Out (‘Life of Leisure’ also reviewed here) got all nostalgic when the surf season finished. And already this year, Beach House (check our interview here) have brought Dream Pop to our attention once again with their third album, ‘Teen Dream’ (released two weeks ago on Sub Pop), which opts for Folkish guitars while resisting the looped guitars and starry eyed synths so readily used by the genre’s flag-bearers, Animal Collective (Charlie’s review of ‘Fall Be Kind’ here too).

It’s just music for relaxation without running water or tweeting birds, right? Well, that could be your first impression of American duo, Beach House; vocalist and organist, Victoria Legrand, and guitarist and keyboardist, Alex Scally. Indeed, you’d struggle to find a more insouciant moniker unless they were called Hammock or Bubble Bath.

Zebra, opens with Alex Scally plucking the kind of melodic, solitary, guitar riff you’d expect on some grainy foreign film, before hauntingly smooth vocals and the distant, swirling synth of Legrand kicks in. There’s greater power and anguish in Legrand’s voice in Silver Soul; the sonorant guitars and languid organ lending a curiously elegant yet epic nature. It’s a style repeated on the stand-out track of the album, 10 Mile Stereo, where the soaring, opening guitar wash builds to a full 50s Rockabilly sound more reminiscent of the musical influences of Phil Spector than the lo-fi navel gazing that plagued us for the best part of last year.

There’s a frequent nod and a wink to Neil Young and the aching harmonising of the Fleet Foxes, especially in the upbeat Norway and the slower piano accompaniments in Used to Be and Real Love. The rhythmic, worldly organ and chiming electric guitars on Walk in the Park feel like Vampire Weekend on tranquilisers, while on closing track Take Care, the slow beat of seldom-used drums pound out behind a whirling harpsichord and keyboards.

The “it’s a metaphor card” can too often be used to excuse a lack of any lyrical substance and in ‘Teen Dream’ despite the odd reference to lost love, the general impression is of lyrics somewhat devoid of meaning or grasping metaphor most of all in opening track, Zebra, that is about, um, a Zebra.

While their first two albums had a more otherworldly feel to them with their grainy low-budget production, ‘Teen Dream’ is a more polished, rhythmic effort with a more instrumental if less progressive feel. Overlaid with Legrande’s distinctive and more confident vocals, ‘Teen Dream’ is their most evolved, mature album to date. More accessible than their previous work but with darker, brooding layers that emerge with each listen. There’s nothing throwaway about this album but with those vocals if it doesn’t relax you, then all hope is lost.

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