Ashely Cooke sees dream-pop masters Beach House faltering on their latest release.
Following on from dream pop duo Beach House’s breakthrough 2010 release Teen Dream, comes their fourth album Bloom. Teen Dream won Beach House fifth place on Pitchfork’s albums of the year as well as the accolade of Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s support, as they were spotted in the Beach House crowd at Coachella. From tours with Fleet Foxes, to Victoria Legrand’s guest vocals on Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest, Beach House’s commercial and critical success has heaped expectation upon Bloom. ‘Lazuli’, the album’s first single, was released as a Record Store Day exclusive in April, generating more hype, and an early but incomplete leak has served only to heighten excitement. Bloom however, does not tread particularly new ground and so comparisons are inevitably drawn with Teen Dream to their detriment. Bloom consists of ten more ethereal, organ-driven tracks that showcase Victoria Legrand’s doleful vocals and Alex Scally’s meandering guitar riffs, but they’re just not as memorable as those on Teen Dream.
‘Myth’ opens with a soaring melody that is held together by the steady drumming, before Legrand’s chorus calls forlornly to a caught-up love interest ‘help me to make it’, but it’s on tracks like ‘Wild’ where Beach House’s creative and inspired songwriting is showcased. ‘Wild’ opens with a droning synth that takes its cues from ambient musicians such as Stars of the Lid, before the drums come in with a prominent cow bell reminiscent of Wilco’s ‘I am Trying to Break Your Heart’, then cue the hypnotic guitar riff and Legrand’s dolorous vocals. All of this is cohesively married with the duo’s distinctive style, resulting in a brooding track bearing quite cryptic lyrics. Bloom, arguably more so than Beach House’s last release, fuses a plethora of stylistic influences and does a lot more than is immediately realised within the confines of their tight, well-executed approach.
Try as I might however, the record proves forgettable. On Teen Dream there were tracks like ‘Zebra’ and ‘Real Love’ whose refrain and melody quite quickly become stuck in your head and become life favourites. On Bloom however, the ten tracks much too easily fuse into one, and after playing the record through at least ten times I’m left with few distinct memories. ‘New Year’ is one that springs to mind, but more for its four chord pattern that anything else. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Bloom to Teen Dream as liberally as I have, for as a stand alone album it is very good, but it can only prove a disappointing follow up release for Beach House as much as I wanted to like it.