Album review: Beach House, "Bloom" - Reverb

Album review: Beach House, “Bloom”

Beach House plays as if its music has all the time in the world. From its 2006 debut album to its new one, “Bloom,” Beach House, the duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, has fixated on one kind of song: stately, undulating, verse-chorus-verse pop that circles through three or four chords as if they could continue unto infinity. The music dissolves girl groups, minimalist patterns, rock anthems, drones and lullabies into a thoughtful stasis. Instead of seeking to create peaks and valleys, Beach House songs thicken without building up; they find equipoise and hold it.

On “Bloom,” Beach House’s fourth and most sumptuous album, time often is the songs’ subject as well as their medium. “What comes after this momentary bliss/ the consequence,” Legrand sings in “Myth.” Songs contemplate the ephemeral and the eternal, mortality and memory, cycles larger than individual lives: “Time will tell in spite of me,” Legrand sings in “On the Sea,” continuing, “In hind of sight no peace of mind/ where it begins and we’re defined.”

Beach House started as a low-fi project, using a Yamaha keyboard and its built-in drum machine along with slide guitar. But with its 2010 album, “Teen Dream,” the duo gave up austerity and let the music seek the grandeur that previous albums only blueprinted. It was the right choice, and “Bloom” wisely expands on it. Songs start with the old dinky sounds, almost as indie nostalgia. But Legrand regularly becomes her own choir, shallow keyboard tones are joined by richer ones, and Daniel Franz adds physical drums to the machine beats; meanwhile, the guitar reverb expands toward the horizon.

If Beach House had any taste at all for melodrama, bloat and bombast might be the result. Almost miraculously, “Bloom” escapes sounding overblown; Legrand’s voice stays humanly imperfect, and when an arrangement approaches a crest, Beach House chooses patience and humility over a big immediate payoff.

”Irene,” the album’s finale (though there’s a hidden additional track after a long silence), is a majestic march, gradually assembling phalanxes of keyboards and guitars. But just when it might have burst into a giant chorus, Beach House chooses instead to repeat a single guitar note and a steadfast drumbeat for nearly a minute, and the awaited chorus finally arrives as a rapturous meditation. “It’s a strange paradise,” Legrand sings: the serene pop sanctuary where Beach House lingers. –Jon Pareles, The New York Times

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