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Is your heart still mine for sale?
on 25 March 2008
The name of Beach House might imply a certain kind of pop -- sunny, frothy, sort of a Beach Boys vibe.
If so, that name is very deceptive, because their music is none of the above. Hailing from Baltimore, Beach House's second album "Devotion" is more like sleeping in a haunted, jewelled music box -- all ghostly singing, lushly sparkling pop instrumentation and sensually dreamy melodies.
"Wedding Bell" spins itself a stately, rippling organ'n'grimy riffs framework, with Victoria Legrand's pretty, eerie voice singing distantly, "You're ringing the only wedding bell/and we're swimming the seas we know so well... I tried to stay in line in our bed/in our heads/Oh, but your wish is my command..." It's very catchy in a neo-Victorian shoegazer way, although much catchier than anything that follows.
But things get far eerier in "You Came to Me," a shimmering ghostly pop ballad punctuated by sweeps of satiny keyboard and timpani. That style carries over into the lilting, swirling sound of "Gila," ruled by a truly exquisite organ melody. And not many singers could sing the name of a lizard and actually sound serious.
And those songs set the tone for much of the album -- ethereal organ laments, shimmering little pop tunes strung with tambourine and swirling guitar, sparkling melodies with spacey carnival synth, tinkly soaring ballads, and so forth. But it ends as catchily -- if more alluringly -- as it started, with the warm, wobbling "Home Again." It sounds exactly as the title would imply.
If I had to describe the particular sound of Beach House, I'd have to say it sounds like an American Nico... fronting the musical lovechild of Mazzy Star and Goldfrapp's latest. Yeah, that sounds weird, but "Devotion" has qualities of those bands -- the haunting vocals, the swirling shoegazer-like pop balladry, and the sparkling framework of lush, warm electronica. Well, the carnival music doesn't entirely fit in.
The first song is a bit of a sore thumb, being rockier and peppier than all the rest -- it's lovely, but seems like a hook to draw you in. But after that, the album is enfolded in a swirling mass of swirling ringing guitars and Legrand's majestic, shimmering organ. Alex Scally wraps every melody in a elusive, hazy shell of keyboard. And there's a Nicoesque tambourine that gets shaken through some of the songs, as well as that great timpani.
Legrand's voice is really a lovely one, but filtered to sound powerfully ethereal. She can infuse a feeling of poignant longing into the songs -- they tend to be about loving someone in the moment, or from afar ("we still have the summers/to be good to one another"), and have moments of truly striking imagery ("... spending money/on a desert rose/holy dances and acronyms/for bones").
Haunting, beautiful and melodious, their second album "Devotion" is a step up for Beach House. Definitely one of this year's must-hears.