It’s official: Beach House is here to stay.

Beach House

Teen Dream
Sub Pop

When a band flat out nails its aesthetic only two albums into the game, it’s only natural to worry that all the band’s consecutive albums will be increasingly lukewarm permutations of the same sweet formula. With 2008’s Devotion, Beach House seemed to have its sound figured out to a tee. The Baltimore duo had struck a spectrally aching balance among noir-y, reverb-drenched guitars and retro-kitsch organs and drum machines, all wrapped up in the ominous blanket of Victoria Legrand’s snake-charming alto. And the end result was an inimitably haunting mutation of bedroom pop that seemed almost too perfect to tamper with.

While Teen Dream largely retains the tone of syrupy dreaminess that made Devotion such an emotionally engaging listen, it proves Beach House is not content to rest on its laurels. Where Devotion was brittle and sparse, slinking along with an icy seductiveness, Teen Dream is sweeping and warm, with powerhouse melodies towering like wedding cakes. From the lushly cherubic vocal layering on “Take Care” to the white-noise climax of splashing cymbals, gurgly moans and quivering synths on the aptly titled “10 Mile Stereo,” Teen Dream’s wall-of-sound grandiosity pulls out the big guns without compromising the band’s hypnotic appeal.

A huge component of the album’s larger-than-life feel is its almost alarming pop sensibility. While Devotion was anything but short on melody, its thrills hinged mostly on down-tempo eeriness rather than bona fide hooks. And though nothing from Teen Dream will ever make as much as a peep on FM radio, the record finds the band stepping out of the shadows and channeling its introspective wistfulness into friendlier, heavier-hitting compositions.

The instant the chorus of opener “Zebra” starts up, with Legrand’s velvety lilt snuggling against a carousel of lit-up guitar and synthesizer, the album smothers the listener in its thawing embrace. “Norway” is especially impressive, taking this newfound pop charisma and hovering it over a melting wasteland of heroin-addled guitars and wavery synths, attesting to the fact that the band’s recent clarity hasn’t whitewashed its aura of mystery.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on Teen Dream is that you can actually bob your head along to a couple of the songs. “Silver Soul,” with its fuzzy-monster guitar throb and crunchy snare-tambourine hits, sounds like something Zeus would bop along to in his bathrobe. And “Walk In The Park” coasts along on an insistent shaker and pulsating drum machine, illustrating how the words “shoegaze” and “dancy” aren’t mutually exclusive.

Still, to say Teen Dream’s electrified vibe is a wholesale improvement on the “old” Beach House would be stretching it. While the band has certainly opened its sound up in terms of warmth, layering and sheer massiveness, the individual songs occasionally feel a little bit too grounded, incessantly building without ever truly evolving, or overstretching the same idea without much wiggle-room. “Zebra” gradually piles on the shakers, backing vocals and crash cymbals in traditional slow-burn fashion, but rides squarely on a verse-chorus-verse-chorus cycle. And “Walk In The Park” follows this same rigid structure without much variation at all, save for its shimmery outro.

But, ultimately, the album’s moderate lack of movement doesn’t really clash with its chi. Teen Dream’s mesmerizing ocean of noise is meant to be surfed on dreamily anyway, and the single-mindedness of each song almost adds to the record’s overall trance. So snuggle up in your bed, light some incense and blast this album at full volume — you won’t be disappointed.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.