I didn’t exactly realize what was happening when OK Computer came out. I loved the album having been a fan since Creep, but I didn’t fully grasp the scope. I saw what Kid A was because that brilliance was obvious. The mastery behind Teen Dream, BEACH HOUSE’s epic third album, is not as clear as day. But I’m older now. If you move through all the fog, what you find is breathtaking. This is a masterpiece. One of the best albums ever produced. In any genre. This BEACH HOUSE chick, man! Victoria Legrand. What a great thing to happen to music. Such a unique talent. She is brooding but airy, at times heart wrenchingly hopeful. One minute she sounds like Beth Gibbons of PORTISHEAD, the next like Steve Perry of JOURNEY. Multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally makes Legrand shine. After two albums together, the two have fallen into each other and the result is awe inspiring. Teen Dream is perfect.
The emotional span BEACH HOUSE takes us on over the course of this record is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Legrand and Scally effortlessly pull the emotions out of you. They never sit still, never recreate an image, and they do it all with haunting organs and synths, slide guitars and tambourines. They’ve mastered this beautiful 1960s campfire feel. Legrand is a lead singer unlike anything we’ve seen. She is it. She’s super cool. She rocks jackets with shoulder pads. After three albums, BEACH HOUSE figured it out, dropping everything to the background, nearly nullifying the guitar work at times during Legrand’s choruses. Though the production is gorgeous and fresh, BEACH HOUSE chooses to allow Legrand to shine brighter than anything else on Teen Dream. The result is a staggering beauty.
BEACH HOUSE is hitting on all cylinders now, giving us something serious to love about every single track. The album boasts one of the greatest 1, 2, 3 punches I’ve seen in my young life. The sweeping dynamic shifts that take place between Silver Soul, Norway and Walk in the Park over the course of those 14 or so minutes leaves us thinking “what the fck just happened?” One after the other after the other, instant classics seem to spill from Teen Dream, and it’s no more apparent than on tracks 2, 3 & 4. That is not to slight the rest of the album, which is a monumentous achievment all together. But these three songs are THE songs Teen Dream will be measured by.
On Silver Soul, the first song of this trifecta, Legrand sounds like a young Gibbons from PORTISHEAD’s Dummy days. Breathy and all over the place, Legrand shines through a voluminous wall of sliding guitars, tambourines, lo-fi background hymnals and a lazy dead beat reminiscent more of the chillwave/glo-fi genre than anything dream pop. A lot of this album employs that dead beat, and though the dramatic imagery is thick as a brick, you can get up and dance to these jams just as easily as you can lay on your back with a good breeze. Silver Soul sounds like a ghost story being told around a campfire. The melodies and harmonies are stunning. “It is happening again” comes in swells, occasionally bolstered by breathless “ah ah ahs.” This is a great compliment to the beach rock thing that’s happening right now, but this happening is nowhere near a beach.
BEACH HOUSE takes us inland, into the woods, into the dusk, to sit around the campfire. On Norway, Legrand drops the haunt and creates a misty image, changing the tone of the record from campfire mystery to out-of-focus foggy memory. The warped shoegaze instrumentation creates an image of mist. The cinematic qualities of the album are in full effect here. The guitars and maracas hardly touch Legrand as she wails “Norway” with “Ooh” and “Ahh” harmonies that barely breathe through the background. It’s amazing that by stretching one word, “Norway,” Legrand can encapsulate what it feels like to fall in love.
The third leg of the trifecta is clearly the best song of the year. Walk in the Park was recorded on a cloud. It is epic. This story has a serious moral lesson for any Teen Dreamer to take. The point: time’s gonna wash all that shit from your head. It’s fine. Even if it doesn’t seem like it right now. It’s fine. “The face you saw in the door isn’t lookin’ at you anymore / the name that you call in it’s place isn’t waiting for your embrace.” BEACH HOUSE identifies sadness’ number one cause with this track. But it’s not the age-old topic that’s special here. It’s the comfort with which the band handles the area of heartbreak. “In a matter of time / It would slip from my mind.” This song is so painfully gorgeous and catchy. Expect it to rise to the top of your iTunes’ most played playlist. By the end of Walk in the Park, Legrand is tumbling on repeat, “more, you want more, you tell me more, only time can run me.” Only time can stop me from playing this song on repeat for the entirety of 2010.
Legrand’s vocal work is history etching. She haunts, she loves, she dreams, she laments, she consoles, she wants. We don’t have to discern a single lyric to realize all of that. She’s as expressive as you could hope from a lead singer. A distinct and booming persona. The beauty though is that she’s not just an excellent shell. On Teen Dream, Legrand’s lyrics are as expressive as her one-of-a-kind vocal work. The totality of the circumstances come together to show a band matured on their third endeavor, firmly planted on who they are, producing what is easily some of the best music in nearly a decade.
The second to last track, Real Love, is a piano ballad. We find Legrand sounding like Steve Perry’s daughter, releasing a ghostly howl. The song seems to open up with the sound of silverware being put away. And I swear I hear a clock ticking, or something ticking, in the background. It all builds to take you right up to crazy. There may also be a tweeting bird stuck somewhere in there. This song evokes the drama of a classic broadway musical. It’s brooding when it needs to be, menacing when it has to be, and then those tambourines shimmy shimmy shimmy. Throughout it all we witness Legrand showing off, stealing her stage, threatened by nothing but a piano line to shut her up. And yet she sings it like there’s a stampede coming, or rockets blasting off, or something that needs to be drowned out. Legrand owns 2010. Real Love is the perfect reminder of what happened just 20 minutes earlier, when with Silver Soul, Norway and Walk in the Park, Teen Dream tipped us off to something extraordinary going on. By the end of the record it is obvious: Teen Dream is amongst the very best albums of all time.
by: Brad Horenstein