Beach House - Bloom (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Beach House

Bloom (2012)

Sub Pop

Beach House perfected what it had been been crafting for six years on 2010's Teen Dream: emotional, sparkling and occasionally brooding pop melodies baked inside a lush kaleidoscope of sound ("dream pop," if you will, a phrase abstract enough to remain relevant to what Beach House still does). If music could be incandescent, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally nailed the visualization via sound. Teen Dream was so well done and enriching that it left both fans and critics to wonder how they could possibly top it, though.

Whether they actually did so is debatable. What is clear is that in their new record, Bloom, they create something that's at least as carefully detailed and equally enjoyable. Now, Bloom isn't as much of a sonic leap as Teen Dream was from 2008's Devotion, But they haven't lost their touch at all. One can still feel a gut diving with certain guitar swashes, like in "Wild," which might merely crib and condense post-rock commonalities of crescendo rippling, but just work. When Legrand follows the overextended keyboard scaling intro to "Lazuli" with a series of affected "hagh"s (which, for all intents and purposes, is also the chorus), it feels like the best melodic update of "O, Superman" in a while. Or, well, just Bloom's version of "Norway," which at track three, is even strategically placed the same way. Of course, the record's at its best when Legrand is the most expressive ("Troublemaker," all maudlin organ and more dynamic vocal flexing).

Those early traits basically set the stage for the next two-thirds of Bloom. Beach House has essentially only tweaked the formula somewhat, begging the "not broke/don't fix" cliché and thus running the risk of turning its very own art into cliché. But the array of subtle differences between Bloom and Teen Dream are abundant enough for that not to be a concern.

Legrand still approaches the sociology of interpersonal interaction with basic thoughts maintaining both an innocence and mild cynicism: "Other people want to keep in touch / Something happens and it's not enough / Never thought it would mean so much," goes the memorable chorus of "Other People." On "New Year": "You were getting wiser / It's better this way." While it's kind of a "Well, duh," moment, no idea here is so basic that it demeans either the content or the listener, fortunately.

Bloom may be no greater than Teen Dream, but it produces the same sort of quality songwriting and tone. We already knew Beach House mastered its craft two years ago; Bloom just puts a pin in the proverbial hat.