Pitchfork: 9.0 Rolling Stone: 3.5/5 Metacritic: 82 Spin: 4/5
Released: January 2010
Walk in the Park
Used to Be
Lover of Mine
10 Mile Stereo
Are you ready for the next album to be crowned a top 10 album of the year before we even count down the new year? Like Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear in latter ’08, the leak of Beach House’s Teen Dream is garnering incredible praise well before its intended release year has started, but after several listens it is hard to deny the possibility that this may very well be one of my favorite albums of “2010” just as Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear ended up being premature favorites of 2009.
Born and raised in (and/or near) Baltimore, I may be slightly biased heading into hearing the newest from an acclaimed Baltimore band, but to be honest I was not a huge fan of Beach House until listening to Teen Dream. I was impressed, but not incredibly so, after seeing them open for Grizzly Bear in Philadelphia. I enjoyed, but didn’t love, their first two records. And really, what could be so exciting about a duo featuring a guy and girl with most songs favoring heavy keyboard instrumentation? Apparently, a lot more than I expected, because I can not get enough of this album.
The opener, “Zebra” opens with a single guitar followed by harmonized “Ahhh’s” and a continuous thumping bass. As Victoria Legrand’s vocals kick in, along with the full drum kit, to the chorus, you can tell that Beach House has not abandoned the ambience they have become known for, but have added a constant sense of melody that will keep you coming back to every song Teen Dream has to offer.
The first single, “Norway”, proves just how powerful Beach House can be with just a few instruments and a single word, “Norway”, as the chorus. The next song, “Walk in the Park”, may be one of the catchiest (if you can call a Beach House song catchy) that I have heard from this band. The piano rhythm recalls that of Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks”, which Legrand lent backing vocals to. She sings, “In a matter of time/It would slip from my mind/In and out of my life”, each line followed by effect-laden tremolo guitar picking. Continuing the desolation theme of past albums, Legrand lets go of a past lover, or friend, in impressive fashion.
You know an album is a great complete piece of work when you can listen straight through without leaving any songs behind, and I have now heard Teen Dream over 15 times without ever feeling the need to skip a single tune. Beach House basically keep the same formula throughout the album as they have in their first two, but they have done so almost to perfection this time around. They haven’t tried to thoroughly expand their sound, but have simply honed in on the craft they have chosen. Being a huge fan of live music, and having seen Beach House (in an opening slot) before, I’m not sure I would recommend dropping a huge lump of cash if you’re looking for an exciting live show, but as far as records go, Teen Dream far surpassed my expectations of this band.
It may be a little early to start predicting the best albums of 2010, but I am excited to see how people react to the next big thing to come out of Baltimore. It feels great to live in a city that can be seen as more than just a dramatic yet depressing setting for one of the best television shows of all time (The Wire), the murder capital of the world, or home to one of the most pathetic baseball teams of the new millennium. I have Animal Collective, Dan Deacon, and now, Beach House, to give me hope for a future of inspiring music to come out of my hometown.