Under Review: Beach House – Teen Dream

Some bands are better at making songs than others.  That’s a simple fact that doesn’t place either faction above the other.  Certain bands are more suited to lavish atmospheres that waft rather than pop, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.  What does become problematic is when a band that’s well versed in one style tries to cross over into the other.  Most times, the shift is a seamless evolution of the band’s sound, and sometimes it’s a little more forced.  Baltimore duo Beach House has had its sound down since its 2004 debut, and there’s really no point in arguing with that.  They’re good at doing what they do, and what they do is make droning, occasionally beautiful pieces that amble and drift, usually without settling down on a melody.  That’s been their thing for a while, and, even with the slight advances toward song craft on Teen Dream, it looks like that’ll keep on being their thing.  Sure, Victoria Legrand has got some remarkable pipes and Alex Scally’s self-taught guitar style is impressively intricate, but the band rarely gets past the haze of its own music to make a lasting impression.  The new album changes that a little bit, infusing a chorus here and a hook there, so it’s evident that the duo is making progress.  One of the album’s most distinctive tracks is its opener, “Zebra,” which weaves together textures (both instrumental and vocal) into a rather dynamic web.  “Zebra” sets the stage for the rest of the songs on Teen Dream, which all echo the track in structure if not substance.  Beach House’s characteristically eerie and woozy organ lines are featured prominently throughout Teen Dream, with songs like “Lover Of Mine” and “Norway” nearly sounding like they’re being played at the wrong speed.  As I listen to it more and more, I find that I don’t dislike Teen Dream so much as I’m not moved that much by it.  Though the songs are pretty and are, without a doubt, much stronger than anything the band has released before, the album seems to melt into the wallpaper as soon as it leaves the speakers.  Of all the indie pop bands out there, Beach House is probably the easiest to peg as ‘boring;’ but the kind of strides that Teen Dream makes (compared to the band’s previous albums, that is) shows that Legrand and Scally are actively trying to do something about it.


~ by E. on January 27, 2010.

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