I typically steer clear of writing album reviews, because any given recording usually has a mutable shelf life for any given listener, and therefore an individual’s interpretation of a collection of music simply reflects a brief moment of judgment and application of value, inviting the possibility of subsequent reevaluation. For me, albums tend to change and progress according to my mood, attention, thoughts, or even the amount of caffeine I have consumed (or failed to consume) before or during a listen. Some records sounding amazing upon the first few listens might fizzle out soon thereafter. Others may seem boring or inaccessible initially only to grow into incredibly meaningful works of art after several listens (Isis’ Panopticon is a personal case in point). In other words, music is a subjective experience, and as we, the subjects, change the music we listen to changes with us. It is with this trepidation that I begin a discussion of Beach Houses’ new album, Bloom.
I’ve accepted the unhappy task of reviewing this album – an assignment imposed upon me by a certain bearded gentlemen – and I’m not happy about it because discussing Beach House’s music is for me a heavy undertaking. For instance with Teen Dream, an album for which I have enormous respect, I required at least a year of occasional listens to ascertain how good the disc really is. After perusing a few reviews of Bloom, the new disc is evidently just as good if not better than its predecessor (perhaps even the best of all time according to some sources). As I have only listened to it a small handful of times, I can’t speak to that (it will probably take me about twenty-five more listens to make such a judgment). I can, however, at least express a few first impressions.
2)The album sounds like Beach House. The songs prove to be more of the same types of compositions, moods, and textures Legrand and Scally have produced in past efforts, which isn’t a bad thing.
3)The first song, Myth, is a great opener, and exemplifies much of what I like about Beach House – music heavily layered by interesting sound, producing chilling moods through the employment of simultaneous emotional detachment and engagement by singer Victoria Legrand.
4)The album lulls around at more or less the same pace (methodically glum and slow) until about the mid-point when “The Hours” begins a gradual change of direction with a hooky chorus suggesting the emergence of a genuine pop tune, and more to come.
5)From that point, the album turns on the energy + emotion with “Troublemaker” which maintains the typical Beach House sullenness but adds an aggressive, rising sound progression, pleasingly building itself until the end of the chorus’ last pass as a cymbal crash provokes a digression into the conclusion (does this description come across pretentious or what?).
6)The sonic strength of the last two cuts facilitates a crescendo with “New Year,” which functions as a bit of a synthesis of the “The Hours” and “Troublemaker” employing their most appealing elements from a poppy chorus to moments of lucid emotionality and intensity.
7)“Wishes,” the next song, is the tune that completes the square for me on Bloom. The piece offers an intense transcendence from the gloom as it works its way to the chorus, capped off by an interesting riff during the bridge – a cool little Beach House composition (maybe one of my favorites). This four song run toward the end of the disk adds a string of powerful moments and the primary contributions to making the album “good” if not “great.”
8)The remainder of the album, while interesting, fails to replicate the systematic development accomplished with the former tunes. I was hoping “On the Sea” would take off for the same heights reached by the previous four songs, for instance, but its consistent mellow mood along with the repetitious nature of the final cut, “Irene,” suggest Scally and Legrand are content to slowly and cautiously wind the collection down to its completion.
Okay, I changed my mind – I love this album, this is best recording of all time, I will always hold it dear to my heart! But that might change tomorrow.
Here’s a link to “New Year.” Enjoy!