Dream pop duo Beach House deliver a consistently great (if placid) record with Bloom.
The shoegaze-y, ambient dream pop that Beach House has made their trademark is trickier to pull off successfully than it may seem. Dulled, rounded guitars, fuzzy synths, mid-tempo malaise, and sparse percussion are simple tools that duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scully employ frequently, yet using these tools in the right context is what makes dream pop so, um, dreamy. If dream pop were a nostalgic photograph, Beach House would be the equivalent of a veteran, professional photographer invoking feelings of longing out of simple beauty, while lesser bands would be the equivalent of a hungover college student taking a photo of a twig and posting it to Instagram. If both use the same sonic elements, then where does the difference come from? Good question, hypothetical reader. Songwriting. Dream pop is a sound that has been so well-established and refined over decades that the way to separate the talent from the hacks is in the ability to write melodies, capture attention, and create and maintain sonic motifs and themes. And, with Bloom, Beach House has established themselves as excellent songwriters.
Bloom is released two years after the now-iconic Teen Dream, which found Beach House finally coming into their own as dream pop aficionados. However, Bloom immediately eclipses the group’s past efforts right from the start. “Myth” surpasses any previous Beach House song in its lush soundscapes and effective use of Legrand’s raspy croon. From there, tracks such as “Lazuli” and “The Hours” enraptures with warm, molasses-thick waves of sound that fill every nook of the headphones. “New Year” creates a hazy nostalgia from loops of white noise and samples of Legrand’s voice. “On the Sea”, begins with a piano waltz and swiftly builds to a lovely ballad. Finally, the album closes with the 16-minute “Irene”, which is actually two tracks that skillfully continues the patient atmosphere that Beach House has shaped over 50 minutes.
Bloom may be a lovely album, but it certainly fits a very specific mood only. This is somewhat typical of most, if not all, dream pop, yet the genre really only creates a peaceful, calm, and ethereal atmosphere. That being said, going into Bloom and expecting to find anything other than tranquil soundscapes is doing it wrong. To some this may seem monochromatic, but both the quality of each individual track and the overall texture Beach House creates and maintains counteracts any lack of variety. The end result is a masterfully crafted, awe-inspiring experience that begins in a state of wonder and only expands on that as it plays on.