I am in love with Beach House. Not only because the Baltimore duo creates some of the most beautiful pop music out there today, but also because they post such silly things on their Twitter feed as, "Beach House is officially changing its name to Waffle House." They are musical, have a good sense of humor, and enjoy greasy southern diner food? Swoon.
With the release of their third full-length record (and Sup Pop debut), Teen Dream, Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand have immerged from the haze that has dominated their sound since their self-titled debut back in 2006 to show their brighter, more playful side. This album doesn't sound like everything else they've created before and is clearly indicative of a new Beach House, yet it isn't unsettling or untrue to their roots (I'm looking at you, Spoon).
Beach House started to move away from their signature "dreamy" sound with 2008's more percussive Devotion. The songs on Teen Dream are even less heavy-lidded, including more shiny pop melodies dominated by Legrand's smoldering alto.
Yet even though their music may not be as sleepy as before, they still put the word "dream" right in the album title. This time though, the word dream doesn't bring to mind the surreal sort of reverie that is overused when describing Beach House's sound. Instead, it appears to suggest looking forward to future goals: a new sound, or a new direction in life, perhaps.
The pair (who are not a couple) recorded Teen Dream at a converted church in upstate New York, suitably called Dreamland. Working with producer/engineer Chris Coady (who has collaborated with TV on the Radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Legrand and Scally obsessed over the album to create a collection of songs that are of a much higher quality than their previous output.
Beach House is poised to attract a more appreciative fan base that is less likely to blow them off for their previously raw DIY approach to recording, with this fuller and brighter sound. Though this album undoubtedly sounds better than anything they've done before, I do miss the simple lo-fi blurriness of their older songs like "Master of None" and "Auburn and Ivory". However, my only true complaint with Teen Dream is with the song "Used To Be".
I first heard "Used To Be" at Beach House's 2008 CMJ showcase. As a dense fog wound its way through the sweaty venue, the upbeat notes of a brand new song poured out of Legrand's keyboard. I instantly fell in love with the simple pop melody, and listened to the version they released as a 7" single on repeat, growing increasingly impatient to hear the new album. "Used To Be" ended up making it on to Teen Dream, but it is a different song. Though the track is instrumentally fleshed out and more precise due to production quality, I still prefer the original. The song is still recognizable, but they replaced the original heartbreaking lyrics, "even if we try so hard/we will give pieces of our heart/it's always good to see you again/even if it's coming to an end," with the phrase, "coming home any day now," repeated for the last minute of the song. It's good, but just doesn't hold the same weight.Lyndsey Matthews