Beach House: Teen Dream
The Brooklyn duo has been traveling with Grizzly Bear on and off over the last couple of years, and it’s appropriate. Beach House’s music is just as sleepy, but is likewise composed and deliberate. What results is the first essential listen of the decade.
Because the record is so delicate, it’s a hard one to describe. It’s hazy. Make out music, as vocalist Victoria Legrand has elsewhere deemed it. And that’s something she can presume because her voice is very sexy, somewhere between Kate Bush and Nico. Meanwhile, Scally’s guitar slides and resonates, giving a thick but easy sonic texture.
Together, the musicians make a lush dream-pop, still imaginative over a surprisingly varied fifty minutes. Some might not detect the improvements over their first two releases. There’s, of course, the same Mazzy Star comparisons that can be drawn here. But this release brings out the likes of 70’s AM radio (i.e. Fleetwood Mac), and 50’s soul (especially on “Real Love”). Standouts like “Zebra” and “Norway” benefit from a faster tempo. “10 Mile Stereo” recalls the darker tones of Fleet Foxes. In terms of pace, “Walk In the Park” parallels Feist’s track of nearly the same title, and could certainly have the same iTunes love effect.
The year is far from ripe, but I will say already that this release will be somewhere at the top of my 2010 favorites.
Beach House will be visiting not-too-distant Omaha on April 5. They’ll be playing at The Waiting Room. If you consider yourself rad, you’ll pick up a ticket at the venue website.
Vampire Weekend: Contra
In early 2007, a blue CD-R circulated and Vampire Weekend became a blog sensation before the packaged debut even reached music distributors. Three years later, their sophomore album’s achieved the top spot in national sales and is, ironically, as indie as ever.
It’s not as immediate as the debut, but repeated listens are rewarding. There’s still the Afro-pop riffs, the ska influence, the harpsichord, and Ezra Koenig’s light, naïve voice. But the songs are more dense and complicated this time: M.I.A. samples and Nintendo textures (“Diplomat’s Son”), autotune (“California English”), and synths that recall the R&B of bandmate’s recent side project. They’ve also sped things up a bit with “California English” and punky first single, “Cousins.” The latter makes past singles “Oxford Comma” and “Mansard Roof” feel like elevator music.
Even with the added complexities, the tracks never feel bloated or gimmicky. Tracks like “Horchata” and “White Sky” retain the precise, sunshiny spirit of their debut. Even their meeker tracks (“Taxi Cab” and “I Think Ur a Contra”) go down easy.
Also making its return in the sequel is the white-collar pretense bashed by clusters of the blogosphere. I can just picture the Columbia University grads huddled around an Oxford dictionary in pursuit of words that rhyme with “horchata” (“balaclava,” “aranciata,” and “Masada” were chosen).
But, frankly, it’s a quibble that has no business deterring potential listeners. It’s clear that their “education” was used in other ways here—namely, in synthesizing even more influences. Even if you can’t take it in all at once, it’s for good reason. They’ve expanded. And that’s the sort of effort you want in a follow-up.