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Album Review: Beach House - Bloom (2012 LP)

Beach House - Bloom

It's interesting to note that for Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand - the duo known as Beach House - Bloom isn't exactly the bright, luminescent, or flowery album title some of us may have imagined. In fact, as explained in an interview with Pitchfork, for the Baltimore-based musicians it has a slightly darker tone, encapsulating the temporal and "cyclical nature of all things".

That doesn't mean, however, that listeners should expect a darker listening experience from their latest album. The most passionate of fans could no doubt point out subtleties it would take months for me to notice - which is a compliment in itself. A record which reveals intricacies and rewards the listener over time is something special that should be cherished. But for the most part, the follow-up to Beach House's critically acclaimed third album, Teen Dream, sounds as light and dreamy as ever. I'll let you decide for yourself whether or not that's a good thing.

Opener "Myth" sees the duo build on a rolling beat, and right from the beginning it sounds familiar. They work well at constructing the song, and it feels like it follows a significant path and focus. From the start, it seems like Legrand and Scally have refined what makes them just so adored by their fans. The song-writing feels slightly tighter, and it's noticeable.

"Lazuli" begins with a simple synth line, but grows to so much more. "New Year" stands out with its catchy vocal melodies and percussion, and "On The Sea" sits at the tail-end of the album with its walking piano melody, holding you close as it pushes away any threat of the album waning.

It would be pointless for me to delve further into individual songs. It's dream-pop at some of its finest, and Bloom is one of those albums that is consistently strong overall.

That is where the problem lies however - in its consistency. Not the consistency of its quality, but in terms of tension and release. Bloom will lift you up, it will swirl around you, and it will whisper tales of wisdom and life in your ears, but sometimes it feels like a light breeze at best - and one that you can get used to. I wouldn't dare suggest that Beach House abandon their beautiful style in favour of anything relatively more abrasive or brash, but I can't help feel that they need something else. Something that builds and snaps, or jolts us - something that reminds us of what we're listening to and redraws our focus to a new point in the experience, because it feels like that can be missing at times.

"It's a strange paradise," Legrand repeats on closing track "Irene" (prior to hidden track "Wherever You Go"), and the line seems to act as a rather apt reflection on the album itself. Bloom is a very strange paradise indeed. It's both inviting and familiar, yet still new and refreshing. Full of the organs and guitar tones most of us have come to expect, it's an album fans will feel right at home with. Its main let-down is a lack of tension, but at the end of the day, this is Beach House doing what Beach House do best - and better this time around too. Here's hoping they continue that trend of growth well into the future.

Review Score: 6.8 out of 10