Our appreciation of music is forever held captive by our own past lives. Unbeknownst to us, every melody and beat indelibly imprint themselves upon our brains, moulding our musical tastes and conditioning our responses to newness.
The implications of this really come into focus when first listening to the pearly dew drops of narcosis that form US dream-pop duo Beach House’s self-titled debut. The band are Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, two residents of Baltimore. Victoria handles vocals and keyboards, with Alex backing her up with spindly, almost geriatric guitar lines and lovely, woozing organ chords.
And while there’s a lot to like about Beach House, listening to their album feels like being submerged in musical memories, frantically struggling to reach the shore as wave upon wave of Yo La Tengo, Mazzy Star, Nico and the entire back catalogue of Sarah Records crash down mercilessly.
The first half of Beach House sounds a little too like a mixtape of that which has gone before over the last 10 to 20 years. Legrand somnambles through Saltwater and Tokyo Water, and while these tracks and Apple Orchard are lovely enough, they’re handicapped by their very lushness.
However, albums, like football, are possessed of two halves, even in these digital days. When Legrand begins to project, the whole album suddenly makes sense. We first catch a glimpse of something stirring in her soul during the impassioned Master Of None and this strident, deliberate tone is maintained on the final two tracks, House On The Hill and Heart And Lungs.
It’s these moments that threaten to sell the album to me, where the first whiff of the decay and the gothic begin to creep into the nursery-rhymes that Beach House at first sing so sweetly. It’s here where the music and songwriting is strong enough to allow one to forget Nico and Yo La Tengo, and bask in something unique. But it just doesn’t happen enough. Maybe the next time Beach House open their doors, they’ll remember to show us round their dark places, not merely their sunlit rooms.