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Album Review
Teen Dream

Teen Dream
by Beach House

Bella Union/Sub Pop

Review Date
7th April 2010
Reviewed by
Brannavan Gnanalingam

Beach House’s beautiful previous album Devotion swept over its listeners like a gentle wave, in a way that almost completely matched the connotations of the band’s name. The band’s third album Teen Dream is considerably different to Devotion, with its melodies and rhythms much more upfront, stronger delineations between verses and choruses, its atmosphere more dynamic, and the overall sound much more polished. That’s hardly as bad as that sounds – Teen Dream is a brilliant album, with Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally sounding more and more assured as songwriters.

The album gets off to a strong start with ‘Zebra’, with beautiful harmonies and a sparse guitar riff, in which Legrand regretfully sings “don’t I know you better than the rest // all deception from you”. It’s a perfect start in terms of setting up the album’s mood, and the songs continue from that line in the sand. Harmonies and keyboards take over with the beautiful ‘Silver Soul’, and dominate from then on as expected with a Beach House album. However, at points the guitar is crucial in driving the album’s tension and mood, such as in the My Bloody Valentine-esque swirl in ‘Norway’ (the band have fought constant comparisons to MBV throughout their career, and for once, this song actually sounds like MBV), or as in the chorus of ‘Silver Soul’.

Whereas the previous work rarely played with crescendos or dynamic shifts, Teen Dream features moments which verge on the transcendent. Highlights include the chorus of the gorgeous ‘10 Mile Stereo’ which explodes with synths and pounding drums, or the slow build of ‘Used to Be’ which eventually collapses into a hangover over the line “coming home//any day now”. The songs’ build-ups are also helped by an increased use of drums and percussion throughout, which help with the album’s momentum, and colour the songs at perfect moments.

The lyrics focus on love and its machinations, and in particular a far-off lover – and the overall tone of the album is one of regret. Legrand’s vocal performance adds considerable emotion to the lyrics, making them sound much denser than they do on paper. Legrand’s vocal performance is a highlight of the album, smoky like a cabaret singer but vulnerable in its emotional depth. By the time the album ends with the slow-dance of ‘Take Care’, Legrand is almost ready to break your heart when she confides that ‘I take care of you // if you ask me to’. The end result of all of this is a great album, one which is emotionally engaging and musically complex, and, one of the best released thus far in 2010.

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