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ISSUE 21 | Reviews: Beach House’s Teen Dream by 20watts

Beach House's Teen Dream is pretty close to a melodic masterpiece.

Part of our ISSUE 21 coverage!

PREVIEW: Visit Beach House’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 18/20 Watts

High school usually boiled down to one thing: hormones. Beach House’s lovingly constructed third full-length effort officially dropped at the beginning of the year, just in time for Valentine’s Day, and it’s almost a pity that they don’t have any serious competition yet. Teen Dream might already be the best dream pop album of 2010.

The record is dense. Tightly wound but spaciously executed, the songs on this would-be break-up album wander as much as they gallop. On certain tracks, Victoria Legrand’s airy, atmospheric vocals sound as lost as Alex Scally’s guitar work sounds confident, and vice-versa.

They play against each other through­out the record. Album opener “Zebra” en­ters with a single curious guitar line before Legrand’s layered crooning invites listeners into the album’s story. Told through the interplay of Legrand’s vocals and organ playing, and Scally’s quietly complex guitar riffs, their Teen Dream evokes the nostalgia and empathy of youthful romance, sometimes with over-sentimentality, but never lacking beauty.

The lyrically despondent “10 Mile Stereo” treads as closely to rock conventions as Beach House has permitted in three studio efforts. The levee breaks at 3:40 with Legrand’s frantic shout of “Forever!” and the accompanying onslaught of drums and Scally’s triumphant, noise-ridden guitar assaults the eardrums for 45 seconds before quieting down.

Save the Snow White references on “Norway,” characters do not appear on this album. Rather, each description of a waxing or waning relationship makes use of direct address to speak to its audience. “In and out of my life, you would slip from my mind,” Legrand sings on the lonely “Walk in the Park.” The lyrical technique recurs in most of the other songs, includ­ing “Norway” and the tremendously full-bodied coda “Take Care.”

“Take Care,” the last and longest selec­tion on the album, might also be the finest song in Beach House’s oeuvre. Among repeating guitar chords, sparring percus­sion and an ambient organ, Legrand’s voice circles glassily around the song’s – and the album’s – ingeniously simple message: “I’ll take care of you.”

The fact that Beach House have roped in the romantics is by no means a rare feat. It’s only rare that they accomplished it so so majestically inside of 10 songs, 50 minutes in one of the most heroic marriages of production and sentimentality since Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

Like that album, of course, Beach House’s latest effort operates (read: succeeds!) for its own reasons. Like the young love it strives to embody, Teen Dream is frail, precious and ultimately beautiful.

— Eric Vilas-Boas

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1 Comment

[…] House emotionally killed me at the start of this year, with a very well-received third effort, Teen Dream. Whether it’s Victoria Legrand’s sultrily […]

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