Beach House, Teen Dream (Sub Pop)
Last summer, I had the chance to speak with Beach House singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand about her band’s notoriously melancholy reputation. She replied with what was essentially a mission statement for the album that became Teen Dream: “The melancholy thing is okay, but I think many other colors in the emotional rainbow are coming. I hope to start hearing new words other than ‘languid’ and ‘sleepy.’”
In fairness, those words never did Beach House’s first two albums any justice in the first place. The Baltimore-based duo of Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally have routinely had their superb pop sensibilities overshadowed with lazy comparisons to “audio Ambien,” thanks mostly to the admittedly dreamy combo of Scally’s weepy slide guitar and Legrand’s spooky church organ. On closer inspection, songs like “Master of None” from their 2006 self-titled debut and “Heart of Chambers” from 2008’s Devotion were startlingly catchy in their own slow-motion way. Still, there’s no denying that Teen Dream—Beach House’s third album and Sub Pop debut—will open up the adjective box for this band once and for all.
This is easily the best Beach House album to date, as well as the best indie album of the year thus far—a statement that just might hold true come December. Legrand and Scally, as promised, have moved into new territory, from the Cocteau Twins-ish lead single “Norway” to the Arcade Fire-y build-up of the epic “10 Mile Stereo.” Every song stands up alone, too, avoiding the coagulation that occasionally occurred on side two of the band’s earlier efforts. As for old fans who prefer their Beach House albums as the soundtracks to unmade David Lynch films, don’t fear. The chorus from “Silver Soul” (“It’s happening again”) sure seems like a Twin Peaks reference. And if that show could be on network TV, it only makes sense that Teen Dream will find the Billboard charts.