Review of B-Sides And Rarities Album by Beach House

In 2003 The Manic Street Preachers released a compilation album subtitled 'A Secret History'. It's a title that Baltimore Dream Pop duo Beach House should have considered for their first compilation album, which encompasses additional material that hasn't appeared on their six studio albums released since 2006. B-Sides And Rarities seems an odd album title for a band that's not predominantly known for singles, it's a joke that Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally seem to have acknowledged while doing the rounds promoting their latest offering. While you do have flipside songs and hard to find gems here, the real selling point is that this is a comprehensive package of every studio recording the band has made that hasn't fitted naturally onto a record. It's the first time we've been given an overview of Beach House's output over the last eleven years, and that's what makes this record a real success.

Beach House B-Sides And Rarities Album

Unlike other compilations B-Sides and Rarities feels decidedly cohesive, even though these are orphaned songs from a multitude of projects. The most important thing it tells us about the band is that although their commercial appeal has grown over time, their sound hasn't dramatically changed or been compromised to achieve those sales figures. There's a certain artistic integrity to the contents of this album that the duo should be proud of and it gives them the freedom to stray from a formulaic chronological running order, choosing instead to let seemingly unconnected compositions compliment each other.

The album opens with the first of two previously unreleased tracks, 'Chariot'. Recorded during sessions for the band's last two albums in 2015, you can hear the confidence that the duo has developed in recent years with a slow burning and hypnotic organ melody punctuating Legrand's warm cooing vocals and Scally's languid guitars. The second of these songs 'Baseball Diamond' is more delicate and intricate with it's organ bringing to mind a ball game in slow motion. While it's understandable that these songs may not have fitted on other studio projects, they certainly feel at home here.

There are of course less successful moments to be found, primary among them is the cough syrup remix of '10 Mile Stereo'. Originally a B-Side to 'Zebra', the half speed tape effect strips the song of some of its charm. It's an interesting, if flawed, experiment that embraces lo-if studio techniques, but sacrifices the chiming guitar melody that made the original so memorable. Equally the cover of Queen's 'Play The Game' is impressively re-imagined through a Dream Pop prism, but it's so lethargic that the vigour of the original is lost completely.

Particular highlights range from the oldest recording here, 'Rain In Numbers', which shows a rough but fully realised version of what Beach House's sound would develop into. 'Saturn Song' was recorded during the Bloom sessions and demonstrates that the band is at it's most dynamic when they push out of their comfort zone with a haunting piano loop and interstellar samples that make the duo sound like an alien cousin of Sigur Ros. 'Equal Mind' was omitted from that album for having the same tempo as 'Other People', but on reflection perhaps shouldn't have been. In short B-Sides And Rarities is an alternative look into all corners of Beach House's back catalogue, without feeling like it's jam packed with off-cuts and inferior material. It's comprehensive, but compact throughout it's 56-minute running time and serves as a good introduction to the band or simply a reminder of why they can be so transcendent. Understated and often beautifully executed, for once I can recommend a compilation that really does deserve your time.

Listen to the full album:

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