via Ragged Words
By Daniel Greenwood
Hype can be a terrible thing. Personally, the stir whipped up around Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest made them partially unlistenable in 2009. It’s not just because people like those records so much (and talk about them so much), it’s that it removes what’s once personal about a record, as is evident on the earlier work of those bands. Feels is Animal Collective at their loneliest, and Yellow House is Grizzly Bear half-asleep in the dusty nook of a cabin somewhere. If MPP and Veckatimest are ‘unlistenable’ now, it’s only because the light at the heart of the records might take years to really make itself known to any of us (especially Grizzly Bear’s efforts).
A fragment of the hype surrounding Grizzly Bear fell upon Beach House the moment Victoria Legrand lent her hearty swoon to Veckatimest’s ‘Two Weeks’. It’s a song that feels more like a Beach House impression on the part of Ed Droste, admittedly a huge fan of Legrand’s band. And expectation has been high for the sandy-soled Baltimoreans ever since. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are being tipped get global. Gladly, on Teen Dream, any worldwide euphoria is tentative, and the things that make this band so appealing remain in the surf of these songs.
Teen Dream begins and ends in earnest. ‘Zebra’ is an opening lament of someone or something that got away: ‘Don’t I know you better than the rest,’ sings Legrand. It might also be a neat metaphor for the music itself, the personal connection you can have with a song you love, as if it was all your own. In the end, this entity, this thing you’re after, it’s like Legrand’s black and white horse running before her, ‘arching among us’.
The finale, ‘Take Care’, is the album’s strongest song both melodically and in seeing the duo return to their roots. Legrand’s voice dips and peaks, piggybacking Scally’s looping licks. ‘I’ll take care of you/if you ask me to/in a year or two,’ goes the refrain. Legrand is back to the voice of old – the wishful heart of both Beach House and Devotion.
In between these two pillars are eight songs that see Beach House attempt to lift their sound and tempo. ‘Norway’ has the chaste whisper of a Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac track whilst ‘Silver Soul’ sees the pair replace lullabies with anthems of helplessness and despair: ‘It is happening again!’ ‘Used to Be’ is an update on the 7-inch released last winter, a strong redraft of an already fine song. The simplicity of that tender 4/4 kick suits Beach House well. It’s inviting rather than blasé.
‘Real Love’ will please lovers of Devotion the most, with a sense of longing that Legrand pushes further than anywhere else on Teen Dream. Scally and Legrand step away from the electronic encroachments on their droning, analogue sound, with Legrand playing piano ivories like a strong wind through leaves. ‘I met you somewhere/in an air beneath the stairs,’ she wails, and it’s here that this record finally sits itself down next to you. Not unlike Merriweather Post Pavilion or Veckatimest, Teen Dream might be overcooked by talking heads, but in time, even a year or two, this record will meet you again. You may well be underneath the stairs.