Album Review: Beach House – Bloom
Originally published on The Boar online: http://theboar.org/music/2012/may/29/bloom/
In the last few months, numerous music critics have signposted Bloom as the album which will finally see Beach House achieve full crossover appeal. Each previous album has gently nudged the Baltimore two-piece closer and closer towards widespread critical recognition, without sacrificing an ounce of their integrity or dynamic. The title of the album is perfectly apt: the ten songs on offer here (well, eleven if you count the lilting hidden track Wherever You Go) are all built from simple components, but each one soon flowers into something quietly euphoric: fragile, pretty and fervent.
It seems that the group have largely stuck with the winning formula of 2010’s Teen Dream, one of the year’s surprise favourites in many end-of-year polls. That album provided the perfect balance between the intimate and the epic, with songs like Zebra and Better Times by turns both sparse and soaring. By and large, Bloom sticks to the same hazy, dream-pop template, although there are slight variations in sound discernible here, such as the widescreen swoop of Wild (possibly the band’s most ‘epic’-sounding track yet) and the prominent use of keyboard squiggles on the slow-burning single Lazuli.
As with previous Beach House releases, the hooks only begin to emerge from the haze after several listens, but Bloom also features some of the band’s most immediate songs. The Mazzy Star-esque Other People is absolutely gorgeous, and the soaring, bittersweet chorus of Troublemaker is one of the most powerful the duo have ever composed. Victoria Legrand’s smoky, operatic voice remains the group’s strongest asset, as she perfectly slips from subtlety to gutsiness over lyrics which are simple on paper, but which she invests with an achingly melancholic power. And yet fellow member Alex Scally is never overshadowed: his silky guitar lines remain absolutely integral: just witness the dazzling melodies which slide into focus during Other People and Wishes, the latter of which is the album’s softest – and sweetest – outing.
Unless being very nitpicky, finding flaws in Bloom is a hard task, although for some, there won’t be enough deviation in Beach House’s soundscapes to keep them fully engaged for the entire fifty-minute runtime. If you don’t enjoy the signature sound of the group, then there’s probably not much here for you. However, for existing fans, and for fans of the genre in particular, this album is a real treat, and one of the strongest of the year so far. Though it arguably doesn’t quite reach the heights of Teen Dream, Bloom is a beautifully crafted album whose treasure trove of sweet lullabies will be more than enough to keep fans satisfied.
“It’s a strange paradise.”