“What comes after this, momentary bliss?” ponders Beach House vocalistand organist Victoria Legrand on Myth, the opening track on Bloom.This question could relate to the band themselves – 2010’a Teen Dreamsaw the Baltimore-based duo develop flesh on their indie bones andclamber out of the shadows into the cathedral of commercialacceptance. Showcasing a gorgeously ethereal production, Teen Dreamwas a breathtaking album and worthy of its place as the shining beaconof nu-shoegaze, a genre revival which seemed laughable 15 yearspreviously.
And Bloom is what comes next. The album came together while the bandwere touring the previous release and apparently, is meant to beexperienced as an ‘album’. Such archaic views from a band so young.But it works. Magnificently. Beach House are equipped to leave thenods 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 inreverb, slinking in and out of the album seemingly at whim. It’spresent here again, most notably on Other People, but seems altogethermore confident – the studio trickery is still present, but there’s amore distinct, chiming nature breaking through the clouds. Legrand’slyrics are still somewhat indistinct but her voice is more prominentand often harmonising with herself to beautiful effect.
Lazuli could fit snugly on Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love – layersof Legrands vocals dovetail with tom-tom rolls and interchangeableguitar, piano and organ trills. The ‘downer’ element from BeachHouse’s muse seems to be gradually erasing itself – no longerreminiscent of woozy, early morning comedowns, the whole album lingersin a sparkling equipoise between transcendence and transportation; inparticular, New Year is a shimmering exercise in trebly, sensual pop.
Legrand’s vocals suggest a frontwoman equally bewitched by LizFraser and Stevie Nicks. Her more audible approach on Bloomleans closer to the latter which perhaps is a natural progression fora band with increasing commercial clout. But Scally’s influences andtouchstones seem altogether more oblique; his Baroque arrangementsseem to hark back beyond the Valentines and A.R. Kanetowards New Gold Dream-era Simple Minds and the moodyatmospherics of Colin Blunstone.
The consistency and linear aspect of Bloom ensures it is, as the bandrecommend, best experienced as an whole. The second half of the albumdrifts into ambient territories with the gentle gallop of On The Seabefore closer Irene, the most Teen Dream-sounding track on Bloom, withits crescendoes of guitar-arpeggios and Legrand intoning “it’s astrange place”.
However, it’s not so strange after all. Beach House’s trajectory fromindie wannabees to critical darlings has a determindely upwards curveto it. And Bloom follows this trend. To answer Legrand’s openinggambit, the bliss no longer seems momentary, almost nothing else isexpected.