Saturday, June 16, 2012

Beach House, "Bloom"

There was something missing in every review I'd read about this band.

Nobody ever described them as a shoegaze Saint Etienne.

All the talk about dreampop this, and ethereal/angelic that ... none of it spurred me to listen to their music.  I don't even remember what spurred me to give "Bloom" a try, but it may have been an offhand Cocteau Twins reference.  More likely the hype and praise for this album reached such unwieldy heights that I finally had to check out what I was missing.

But I can guarantee that if anyone had called them a shoegaze Saint Etienne then I would have dropped everything I was doing and tracked down all their albums immediately.  Slowdive c. 1994 backing Saint Etienne c. 1994, i.e. the dreamier parts of "Souvlaki" merged with the folksy, wisful, otherwordliness of "Tiger Bay"?  Yes please.

Even a google search for "beach house saint etienne" turns up nothing.  Seriously, nobody hears the similarities besides me?  The way the vocals in songs like "Wild" and "Lazuli" seem to be separate from the rest of the song, hovering over it and spreading the reverb-y love over everything, like Saint Etienne would routinely do on "Hobart Paving", "Join Our Club", and other songs too numerous to mention?  Even the lyrics could be from Saint Etienne songs.  Tell me that "our windy endless spring / your eyes are so misleading" (from "Wild") couldn't be followed by "he's so dark and moody / she is his sunshine girl" if the personal pronouns were changed to be consistent with each other?  Heck, isn't every Beach House lyric basically a variation on the mood and theme of "Pale Movie" or "Like a Motorway"?

I also might have jumped to hear Beach House sooner if someone had pointed out that the soaring guitar lines on tracks like "On the Sea" sounded so much like the ones used by Explosions in the Sky all the time. "Bloom" also makes last year's I Break Horses album somewhat redundant.  The two albums pull at most of the same strings, but Beach House have stronger melodies, far more distinctive vocals, and almost never need to rely on noise or other shoegaze (twee or otherwise) gimmicks to keep you engaged.

As good as the first few songs are, "The Hours" outdoes them all by kicking things up a notch by being genuinely danceable and featuring the most addictive chorus on the album.  Of course Saint Etienne's music was and is danceable most of the time, but that doesn't mean we can't say "The Hours" is their "Nothing Can Stop Us", seeing how both inhabit the same understated midtempo world.  And "Irene" is the absolute highlight, because every album should finish with a refrain that could go on for another fifteen minutes.  

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