On the band’s Sub Pop debut, Beach House dives headlong into frothing guitars and spectral melodies and emerges on the opposite shore with an early year classic. Teen Dream is a cohesive, immersive wash of droney shoegaze rock orbiting around a gooey indie pop nucleus. The duo of Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand has steadily built a musical identity over the course of three albums, cresting into new heights on Teen Dream with some help from producer Chris Coady.
“Zebra” opens the album with a frigid guitar shuffle and expands into a deep-breathing lullaby. Each song lulls and swells like white caps dribbling toward shore, every element designed and layered to mimic ocean waves, from the sputtering crash symbols to the crescendo of ethereal backing vocals. “Silver Soul” is surf music for codeine freaks. The Absinthe hush vocal refrain (“It is happening again”) twirls and dances in a delirious waltz of slide guitar and sustained organs. “Norway” drifts into deeper waters, stolen by an undercurrent of raw emotions and slow-bending guitars. The lyrics singsong simple statements into twisted fairy tale memories as a bad-from-the-start romance is re-imagined (and distanced) within poetic phrasings: “We were sleeping until you came along with your diamond heart / You let us in the wooden house to share in all the wealth.” The breathy vocal delivery twists the pain out of unhappy memories, refashioning sadness into melodic catharsis.
The album wobbles and tiptoes across songs like a lover searching tidepools for signs of life. “Walk in the Park” transforms heartbreak into joy as the jilted narrator imagines the day his memories will finally fade, repeating mantra-like, “In a matter of time / It would slip from my mind.” Charged melodies bubble up, gulping at the cold air as the studied, slow-build instrumentation layers and flows into the wave-crashing chorus. “Lover of Mine” floats on a foundation of spooky carnival music, like the theme for some neon circus tucked into a big city back alley, and steadily reveals in nervous giggles the album’s most soul-bearing vocal delivery. “Real Love” is a beautifully shaky, minimalist-by-comparison piano sketch, strengthened by the bareness of its composition and vocals that skimmer across the gurgling shallows of reverb and muted kick drum.
Teen Dream is a patient and lovely dose of easy charm and carbonated melodies, ten heartbroke indie songs that wash ashore like ornate wine bottles stuffed with poetry on parchment paper in a sort of familiar dream-language that is somehow so easy to understand.
Favorite Track: “Love of Mine”
Reviewer Bio - Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles with a girl and a designer dog. He is in a band by himself, has a myspace account at www.myspace.com/wastedpotentialproduction and a production company at (www.wastedpotentialproductions.com) for freelance film, video and journalism work.