Beach House “Teen Dream”

Sub Pop 2010

I realize this review is coming a bit late. Not only was “Teen Dream” officially released in January, but it leaked onto the internet back in November. Even then, people were already blowing it up by word of mouth. I was impressed that so many people were talking about the record several months before its release, but being who I am, I also have to reserve some skepticism for those situations. I mean, seriously—Public Enemy was right when they said “Don’t believe the hype”. If you’re not careful, you can get tangled in that web pretty easily and might even totally forget what really turns you on musically.

“Teen Dream” is not a bad album, but it has definitely been overhyped. For some of the things that are being said about it, I was almost expecting to hear something along the lines of “Rings Around the World” (which is funny, because like “Rings”, “Teen Dream” comes as a CD/DVD package with videos for every song on the record—the whole marketing ploy seems familiar). But then I thought to myself, Cameron, you’ve heard Beach House before, and you know they don’t sound anything like Super Furry Animals. I figured if “Teen Dream” was anything like the previous Beach House album, “Devotion”, it would be another sun-drenched synth-pop affair, something that I’ve heard enough of recently to make me want to puke blood. All the Washed Outs and the El Perro Del Mars and the XXs out there, they’re all doing the same boring Human League rip off thing, and it’s really getting old.

Fortunately, “Teen Dream” also proves, though they may fit nicely into that canon, Beach House stand out as unique among those groups. Production-wise, there is a more ethereal quality to the music that gives the album a clear edge over others in the genre. Plus, the songs seem to pull ideas from a strong base in classic rock, rather than simply eighties music. Sure, the synths are a big part of the whole affair, but there is some old-style shimmering guitar at the forefront of a lot of these tunes. The lead lines of “Lover of Mine” seem to recall Sterling Morrison (of The Velvet Underground), while the synth lines are a straight-up lift from Foreigner’s hit “Waiting for a Girl Like You”. It’s almost as if the members of Beach House grew up in the eighties, but learned to really appreciate the music of previous decades before becoming supremely confident in their material.

Confidence is present here, and it’s mostly thanks to Victoria Legrand’s cigarette-drenched tenor (sorry if you don’t smoke, baby, but it sounds like it!). Her voice isn’t always the most appealing thing to listen to, but it’s a great example of swagger, and it gives the songs on “Teen Dream” some much-needed personality. Without her voice, there would be a lot to forget. One of the first word-of-mouth comments I heard about this record was from my friend Kyle who said, “That new Beach House record is insane—there isn’t really even a single song that stands out, it just all goes together so well.” I remember thinking, Wow, not a single song that stands out? Is that really a good thing? I mean, I know what he probably meant by that—it’s a cohesive album that begs to be listened to all the way through, perhaps. But after listening, I kept coming back to that comment in my head because I felt like I would say the same thing about “Teen Dream”, except in a slightly more negative connotation. There are some good moments to be had, but it’s all very blasé—a full-length, mid-tempo soundtrack for sun-tanning. ***

“Everyone goes to the beach. I don’t get the beach. ‘Where you goin’?” ‘The BEACH! God, I’d love to just go to the BEACH! Man, if we could just go to the BEACH! God! What do you wanna do?’ ‘Go to the BEACH?’ ‘YEAH! Aw, if I could live at the beach…COULD YOU IMAGINE THAT?!? LIVIN’ AT THE BEACH!?!?’ What’s the fuckin’ deal? It’s where dirt meets water, alright? Chill out. That’s it. End of fascination. I got a bathtub and an imagination; I’m staying indoors this summer.” —Bill Hicks, comedian

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2 Responses to “Beach House “Teen Dream””

  1. GA Partner Blog » Blog Archive » Nightmare On Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors – New Says:

    […] Beach House “Teen Dream” « Record Geek Heaven […]

  2. Dream Theater – Metropolis (When Dream And Day Reunite) | Best Viewing Says:

    […] Beach House “Teen Dream” « Record Geek Heaven […]

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