Oh, glorious overcast; A review of “Bloom” by Beach House

Something about Beach House just lands in my musical sweet spot. I love the lush, flowing, synth/guitar melodies. There is certainly a retro new-wave vibe that drives all that they do. It kind of sound like Passion Pit made a musical baby with the Cocteau Twins. Congratulations, it’s dreamy!

Bloom, the new album from Beach House, is delightfully moody.  I would imagine that the name Beach House conjures up images of sun and surf for most folks.  What usually comes to mind for me, despite the band’s Baltimore roots, is something along the northern California coast line on a cold, grey, winter day.

A lot of people are repelled by that kind of weather.  I have a friend in Arizona who had to move away from Oregon largely because of the depression he felt living in constant weather gloom.  My own 13-year-old son even exhibits some of those traits, often struggling to get motivated when the day starts out with overcast skies.  I lean in the opposite direction.  I love the sun and surf, but prefer a blustery, cool, winter beach in northern California. I am energized by such days.  I love standing on a beach with a winter coat on, holding a cup of coffee, feeling the cold wind blowing my face with a spray of crashing surf.   Even better if Natalie is with me.  I love staring at the sky and coast and marveling at the mystery of God’s nature in action around me.  And THAT is the feel of Bloom for me (and with that comment, “On the Sea” begins in my headphones, encapsulating that mental image in song so beautifully).  It’s a northern California coast line sound scape.  I don’t know how well that will play in other parts of the country, but I can’t emote for them.  They will have to draw their own inspiration from the music (“It kind of reminds me of that eerie calm right before the tornado touches down in my front yard” – spoken with a slow, midwestern drawl).

The album maintains that mood start to finish.  “Myth”, the debut single and a highlight, sets the tone that the rest of the album faithfully follows.  Victoria Legrand and Alex Scalla’s voices blend almost without distinction (Seriously.  I’m sometimes not sure which one’s which.  Are we sure there are two of them?  I’ve never seen them live – do they actually both occupy the stage at the same time?  Has anybody ever seen the two of them in the same place at the same time?  I’m just asking questions, here).  They soar in and out of each other’s space beautifully.

At times, there is such a strong 80’s retro vibe that, if I close my eyes, I can almost see a John Hughes movie.  “Lazuli” features a quirky keyboard intro that reminds me of Alison Moyet’s work with Yaz.  “Wild” also gives me that Samantha Baker and Jake Ryan feeling.  Only this time, Jake’s car is parked next to the beach.  In Monterey.  In February.  And he’s probably a little bundled up.

The only axe that I am going to grind is with the bonus track.  Not the song itself, mind you.  It has a delightful Starflyer 59, shoegazing vibe that I really like.  And while I think the use of the hidden bonus track is way played out in general, I don’t even mind that one exists here.   What bothers me is that it is placed on the same track as “Irene”, which closes the album, and doesn’t show up until about seven minutes after the credited song is over.  Why do bands do this?  Am I supposed to use that seven minutes to contemplate on the aural experience I just had?  Is it an empty pallet cleanser, preparing us for the bonus track to come?  Are they giving me space for prayer and meditation?  Or, as is my experience with this practice, are they just trying to be annoying?

I don’t know why bands continue doing this to us.  Is someone out there giving positive feedback on this experience?  If so, stop speaking on my behalf.  And bands, including Beach House, it’s time to stop.  Really.  Please stop.  If you want to include a secret hidden bonus track, let it start a few seconds after the end of the album, not seven minutes later.  It really kills my groove when I have the iPod on shuffle, you know?

Beach House, Bloom – Me likey.

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~ by themattmorrisshow on May 17, 2012.

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