“What comes after this, momentary bliss?” ponders Beach House vocalist and organist Victoria Legrand on Myth, the opening track on Bloom. This question could relate to the band themselves – 2010’s Teen Dream saw the Baltimore-based duo develop flesh on their indie bones and clamber out of the shadows into the cathedral of commercial acceptance. Showcasing a gorgeously ethereal production, Teen Dream was a breathtaking album and worthy of its place as the shining beacon of nu-shoegaze, a genre revival which seemed laughable 15 years previously.
And Bloom is what comes next. The album came together while the band were touring the previous release and apparently, is meant to be experienced as an ‘album’. Such archaic views from a band so young. But it works. Magnificently. Beach House are equipped to leave the nods to shoegaze behind and embrace a far more holistic aesthetic –pop music. And this is pop. Lavish, seductive, beguiling.
Teen Dream was notable for Alex Scally’s slide-guitar, saturated in reverb, slinking in and out of the album seemingly at whim. It’s present here again, most notably on Other People, but seems altogether more confident – the studio trickery is still present, but there’s amore distinct, chiming nature breaking through the clouds. Legrand’s lyrics are still somewhat indistinct but her voice is more prominent and often harmonising with herself to beautiful effect.
Lazuli could fit snugly on Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love – layers of Legrand’s vocals dovetail with tom-tom rolls and interchangeable guitar, piano and organ trills. The ‘downer’ element from Beach House’s muse seems to be gradually erasing itself – no longer reminiscent of woozy, early morning comedowns, the whole album lingers in a sparkling equipoise between transcendence and transportation; in particular, New Year is a shimmering exercise in trebly, sensual pop.
Legrand’s vocals suggest a front woman equally bewitched by Liz Fraser and Stevie Nicks. Her more audible approach on Bloom leans closer to the latter which perhaps is a natural progression fora band with increasing commercial clout. But Scally’s influences and touchstones seem altogether more oblique; his Baroque arrangements seem to hark back beyond the Valentines and AR Kane towards New Gold Dream-era Simple Minds and the moody atmospherics of Colin Blunstone.
The consistency and linear aspect of Bloom ensures it is, as the band recommend, best experienced as an whole. The second half of the album drifts into ambient territories with the gentle gallop of On The Sea before closer Irene, the most Teen Dream-sounding track on Bloom, with its crescendoes of guitar-arpeggios and Legrand intoning “it’s a strange place”.
However, it’s not so strange after all. Beach House’s trajectory from indie wannabes to critical darlings has a determinedly upwards curve to it. And Bloom follows this trend. To answer Legrand’s opening gambit, the bliss no longer seems momentary, almost nothing else is expected.