Expectations were high well before 2012 had even kicked off for the mass of upcoming ventures from across the board. We had (and still have) high anticipation for superhero ventures with The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers, the exciting (we had no idea just how exhilarating) end to the English Premier League and the Euros and London Olympics to look forward to too. All this and the world is supposed to end at some point as well!
Two years after the sublime Teen Dream was released, anticipation for Beach House's follow-up to their third dream-pop release has also been sky high well before the year kicked off, but has the wait been worth it?
Those who know Beach House will know that their sound is very unlikely to see them headlining every festival stage across the globe. This is far from a jab at the duo; their sound is just far too ethereal and understatedly luminescent for the masses. It is close, intimate music made for close, intimate people by close and intimate people. This closeness has started to seem much more all-encompassing as of late though and when Teen Dream was first released, it gave Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand a much wider demographic for them to concentrate their sound on. No longer where they making music to be played for fellow bedroom dwellers, from then on they've had much bigger rooms to ponder performing for and their sound has had to adjust to accommodate this. Calling the album Bloom suits this shift, however slight it is, to a key as the album portrays the duo very much in bloom and en voyage for a much grander sound.
Grander, maybe, but they've not completely re-evaluated their sound and abandoned the dreamy pop sound - far from it. The structure and eventual sound on offer doesn't exactly differ that much from previous releases (especially not Teen Dream), Legrand's voice is as well-measured and wraithlike as ever and Scally's musicianship - his guitar work in particular - follows the similar structure it has done a million times before, yet the sound comes off as being much larger nonetheless. With Bloom, the two have become the loudest two-some to weave dreams into music today, probably ever.
This same-iness is where the key problem for the album lies though, as it really doesn't offer a great deal of anything new. It is predictable at numerous points in the album; you can't help but think that they really could have done something a little different. This more engaging, strident sound does hint at some difference, but hint is all it does. Still, you can't grudge a band for sticking with what they know so keenly and the album does anything but suffer from its insistence on staying the same. After all, didn't the Fresh Prince once sing; 'If it ain't broke then don't try and fix it'? The complaint that it is suspiciously similar to Teen Dream, they've kept the same producer (Chris Coady) and everything, is anything but knit picking for complaints.
The last two songs, 'On The Sea' and 'Irene' really do usher in a new sound for the group and would sound out of place on anything other than this record. Throughout the album, Legrand and Scally are in sync constantly with one another, but it is on 'On The Sea' when the connection reaches its peak. Particularly, Scally's arpeggio and pianee mixing blissfully with Legrand before the cycling keyboard ditty kicks in mid-song is pure pleasure and for a band who tread in ream pop waters, you couldn't ask for a dreamier song.
A welcome return from a welcoming band, hipsters and good music lovers of the world will rejoice together with this album in tow. After Teen Dream, we were left wondering if Beach House could do anything more or whether it would be best to just call it a day; fortunately they chose to carry on. When Faulty Towers finalised after 2 seasons, it left an unwritten rule that the truly great sitcoms should only last this long and programmes like The Office and Phoenix Nights followed suit. Some may argue that artists have a three-album rule to follow as this is usually when a band's creativeness peaks, fortunately Beach House weren't listening to anyone who said this.
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