Beach House - Teen Dream
Teen Dream, third album by Baltimore band Beach House, is a sumptuous collection of ethereal tunes sometimes reminiscent of 80s dream poppers Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil, the ten songs weaving themselves in and out of your consciousness and leaving an indelible impression.
Recorded in a converted church in upstate New York, Alex Scally (guitar and keyboards) and Victoria Legrand (vocals and organ) sought to, in their own words “bottle up these wild visions.” The songs do have the sense of being wild, unearthly creatures momentarily tamed but with one eye out for an escape route to the open-air. Songs like the gentle opener ‘Zebra’ and the incandescent ‘Silver Soul’ are layered in textures of lush keyboards and subtle beats with Legrand's distinctive vocals keeping the songs gounded and tangible. ‘Norway’ begins with jarring organ and bongo before taking flight like a bird. Before you start messing with the controls of your stereo fear not, the slightly warped sensation - like trying to play an LP that has been left in the sun - is deliberate and adds a hypnotic feeling to the song.
The hard to distinguish lyrics, musings about being and existing in time and space, the here and now, give the gossamer-like music a substance to hold on to. But Teen Dream is all about the music. ‘Used to Be’ begins with a single pounding beat, like the impatient tapping of a foot. The tight constraint of the vocals and music gives the song an almost claustrophobic sensation, as if the very words themselves are looking for an escape: “You are coming home / are you still alone? / Are you not the same as you used to be….does each day just feel like another life?”
The songs, like the lovely ‘Been Around Before’ and ‘So Long’, feel like drawings in the sand only to be washed away by the tide and replaced by the next one. Beautiful and gentle, the songs have a soothing and uplifting quality that is hard to resist. The gorgeous ‘We Belong’, with the stark piano chords anchoring it down, has a lost, mournful air. The arrangement in minimal and stripped down, Legrand’s sad and beautiful voice given centre stage. The album closes with the playful ‘Take Care’. Legrand’s voice is rich and deep, the lyrics sung in a slow and deliberate way at odds with the jaunty music in the background, like an impatient friend about to leave her behind.
Teen Dream is a wonderful collection of beautifully textured pop songs that wrap themselves around you like the wind on the waves. Put the tunes on and start dreaming.