Beach House – Bloom
Teen Dream ended up being something of a breakthrough for Beach House, its crystalline, shimmering surface bringing them more attention than ever, so it’s not surprising that they don’t try anything radically different for Bloom, their 2012 follow-up. The results are mixed, resulting in an album that successfully replicates the icy beauty of their last effort but too often sacrifices songwriting in favor of production. This wouldn’t be a problem—and it hasn’t really been one in the past—if their soundscapes were varied, or if individual elements and instruments were allowed to surface more often. But here, Teen Dream producer Chris Coady gives everything a bright wash of echo and blur, which turns about half the songs here into a gray soup of gently plucked guitars, keyboard loops and Victoria Legrand’s torchy vocals. It’s not always a bad thing: Bloom has an alluring sound, and it helps conceal when the songs aren’t up to snuff, like on “New Year,” so the album never really drags, even if much of it sounds the same. And occasionally, when the right song (“Myth” or “Lazuli,” for instance) shines through the slick, echo-y sheen, it’s hard to complain. At the same time, the record often feels stuck in first gear, like a streamlined version of Teen Dream content to go through the motions without mining more evocative territory. Yet when Beach House do branch out—or bloom, as it were—the music springs to life. The piano-led “On The Sea” and the blissful, droning “Irene” pick up some momentum as the album sprints to the finish, while “Hours,” with its bending guitar licks, manages to find some new wrinkles in their tried-and-true sound. Surely, Beach House have few peers when it comes to making these sorts of dreamy and beautiful sounds, but as Bloom demonstrates, they need to find a new way to make them.