Beach House // Bloom // May 15 // Sub Pop
When Beach House’s 3rd LP Teen Dream came out back in 2010 it felt like the Baltimore duo took everything that was good about their first two albums, stepped up the songwriting, polished the sound and delivered a record that to this day stands as the best dream pop album released this decade. Critical success was showered onto them from every corner of the Earth and hey, hitting top 50 in Billboard album charts wasn’t that bad either. They follow this indie success with their new album Bloom, a logical follow up to Teen Dream. Logical it might be but rarely does anticipated result turn out to be so breathtaking.
It’s fair to say that Teen Dream was a sort of a concept album dealing with break ups and whatnot. Everything Beach House released up to this point had a natural flow to it. Their music was always called drony, dreamy. It has always flowed like a river. Bloom sees the duo break the mold. It doesn’t have overly calm moments, something somber. Beach House’s fourth record is the most bright, hands in the air thing they ever released without getting rid of their songwriting ethos or sad undertones. While a lot of the drone and dream pop qualities on their previous records came from the logical, one note or chord being played for an extensive periods of time, Bloom shows the band inducing the same feelings in a different way. The drone and dreaminess here comes from the band using richer instrumentation not to amuse but to mesmerise. Take the opener and first single Myth. It still contains all the woozy synths and slide guitar that is associated with the duo but they feel more alive than ever by creating huge sound that still sounds like being stuck in the middle between waking up and dreaming. On Bloom Beach House are showing that dream pop doesn’t have to be lazy bedroom recordings, it can be grand just like anything that being blown on stadium speakers.
Grand is very much the word here. Beach House flirted with huge on Teen Dream. Norway was the first track they wrote that felt almost too ambitious, too vibrant with life on an album that was more atmospheric than hook heavy. Norway is used as a blueprint for Bloom as nearly every track on here is absolutely enormous. From the after-mentioned Myth to the highlight and record store day single Lazuli which showcases band’s new found interest in euphoric sadness. In a world where simplistic songs about broken hearts are the ones that sell the most, Lazuli works as an antithesis to Someone Like You, a vibrant song that’s sad yet uplifting, empowering yet fragile, crashing down with the fitting “like no other you can’t be replaced” refrain. Bloom might have its share of pain but it knows the value of what it’s going through and offers much more than the same old “more fish in the water” sentiment which is not only relatable but refreshing too. Even Other People, a song that could be classed as slower in Bloom terms, sounds big. The band is not trying to trick the listener into thinking that they improved just by stepping up the production, it’s the pop songwriting that has been stepped up considerably making Bloom hook heavy and filled with hits. Admittedly, they use the familiar trick of having very long codas at the end of their songs, something that they tried on Silver Soul, Walk In The Park and especially Teen Dream’s highlight closer - Take Care. Instead of writing in the usual verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus structure usual to all great pop, Beach House abuse the codas to the point where they become like an euphoric comedown, sort of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-huge post chorus. Beatles were one of the early innovators on Hey Jude, Girls based their career highlight Hellhole Ratrace on the same formula. Beach House do this too, more than once but they always build up the songs in the way that they don’t get boring even if they follow the same structure. If the duo released the greatest hits LP consisting of the best songs from first three albums it would still pack less of a punch than the fourth album, the point where they are no longer hiding in the shadows. Bloom sees the duo blossom, their hearts might be dark but they are absorbing all the sun they can get.
Bloom is Beach House maturing in the most natural of ways. This isn’t some calculated decision to make their sound bigger for the sake of it. Ever since Teen Dream came out it was clear that the duo are following a path that they carved out for themselves. It was possible to predict the sound of Bloom but the significantly improved songwriting was more than anyone expected. It was just a question of time before Beach House burst into vibrant life, Bloom documents this birth of a rejuvenated sound. The album does lack some slower moments in the vein of Silver Soul or even Tokyo Witch but for what it lacks in variety it compensates with top tier songwriting. The last progression that was fulfilled like this was Animal Collective’s flirt with pop which they perfected on their life affirming opus Merriweather Post Pavilion. Beach House’s journey was shorter, less influential and much more conventional but it doesn’t stop Bloom from being just as life affirming.