Releasing 2008's flat out spectacular Devotion, endorsement (including an opening touring slot) from one of last year's heavy hitters Grizzly Bear, and getting signed to Sub Pop made quite the year and a half for Beach House. And with as good as Devotion was, nobody would have minded vocalist Victoria Legrand and instrumentalist Alex Scally being unable to quite match it, much less top it. The duo, however, have indeed managed to live up to the somewhat large hype by not only meeting expectations, but toppling them with their third, unexpectedly mature album, Teen Dream. Recorded in a converted church, you can almost hear the setting; the lush keyboards, the echoing vocals, the music seems to exude the space in which they played. In the same way that Animal Collective did around this time last year, Beach House has established the first high mark of the year to beat.
One amazing thing about Teen Dream is the fact that its melodies are even more consistently spot on than Devotion's. Every song is swimming in them, and they're all so seducing that even when the opening track Zebra gives off a slight resemblance to Weezer's No Other One, you can't help liking it all the more. This, along with Silver Soul (and its gorgeous chorus of "It's happening again.."), gives Teen Dream an absolutely stunning beginning.
Walk in the Park shows off just how much Scally has grown as an instrumentalist. His layering is masterful; the warm guitar contrasts with the almost icy sounding organ, but they never drown out the drum machine, even when the keyboards erupt in the chorus. Legrand's hauntingly beautiful vocals waver over everything, hypnotizing to such a degree that she could rival Hope Sandoval. Even when the melodies are at their simplest, such as on Used to Be, the piano's following of Legrand's voice is just layered over time and again until the song resembles a psychedelic haze almost so thick as to mask the original tune. At the end, the layers sound about to fall about, playing barely in time together, as Legrand repeats "Any day now" (she uses repetition with startling effectiveness all throughout Teen Dream) and it abruptly ends.
As good as the album's beginning is, the end proves able to best it. The swooningly smooth and gentle Better Times gives off that classic dream pop vibe, where something is repetitive but it's just too pretty for you to care, before leading into 10 Mile Stereo, which like Used to Be, also has a deceptively basic beginning but is scarcely recognizable once it finishes. The more spare but equally arresting Real Love picks up here, driven by a piano and Legrand's powerful emoting and Take Care closes us out with a strangely poppy, psychedelic drone, complete with harmonizations, a piano echoing as it climbs and falls, and sweeping cymbals.
Teen Dream is, well, amazing. Not only is it unrelentingly gorgeous from beginning to end, but it's exciting to see how quickly this duo is progressing. It leaves very little room for improvement on their sound, but I, for one, am too blown away to even think about what they put out next.