Is it possible to declare an album as 'Album of The Year' on January 30th?
NO is the simple answer, but 'Teen Dream' by the wonderful Beach House tries it's damned hardest.
Beach House, for the uniniciated are a boy/girl duo (Alex Scally/Victoria LeGrand) originally from Baltimore (also the location of T.V series The Wire, so hoorah for that). They released their self-titled debut in 2006 and critics were quick to proclaim them 'the saviours of American Indie' and comparisons to Mazzy Star and Galaxie 500 were shouted from the rooftops. In 2008 they followed up with the sublime 'Devotion' in which they seemed to discover a poppier sheen whilst staying true to their sombre, downtempo stlye. It was a fantastic release, but one which now resembles only a hint of what this incredible duo are capable of.
So here we are in 2010 and Beach House have unleashed a monster. Comparisons to last years Animal Collective album 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' are already causing the internet to buckle under their weight, mentions of Grizzly Bear comparisons are sending every blogger & sceptic off to discover the record, and here I am already proclaiming it as 'Album of The Year'. So not much hype to live up to then!!!.
But for once the hype is entirely justified, for this is not just a great record, it really does sound like a group at the top of it's game. Imagine, if you will, when Radiohead released OK Computer, or back in 1999 when The Flaming Lips unleashed 'The Soft Bulletin', or indeed last year when Animal Collective released 'Merriweather Post Pavillion' (there I go again). This is Beach House's equalivent, it's their masterpeice.
Opener 'Zebra' begins with just a lone guitar lick until it is joined by some beautiful harmonies and finally the stunning vocals of LeGrand. The tracks builds steadily with solid percussion puncturing the thick atmosphere. After this stately introduction the record picks up pace with possibly it's three strongest tracks. 'Silver Soul' comes across as a lost Afghan Whigs demo, with a haunting guitar and LeGrand singing the blues, the final minute sees her repeat the refrain: 'It is happening again', it is both heartbreaking and prothetic. Track 3 is the lead-off single 'Norway' and once again we are treated to some stunning harmonies intertwined with great production and musicianship even if it does resemble Fleetwood Mac jamming with My Bloody Valentine a little too much. But all this greatness only feels like a appetiser for the main course that is 'Walk In The Park'. This is without doubt the records high-point and feels like one of the great musical moments of this virginial decade. Once again it comes across as a Fleetwood Mac/My Bloddy Valentine supergroup (wow, just imagine Lindsey Buckingham and Kevin Shields jamming!!!!!!!) but with the added beauty of LeGrand's voice. It all leads towards a stunning fade-out with keyboards and organs pushed right to the top of the mix. After such a superb run of songs you would expect any album to falter and lead towards diminishing results, not so with this beast. Other highlights include track 6 'Lover Of Mine' and closer 'Take Care' which again features a wonderful fade-out (whatever happened to the fade-out?, it seems so under used in modern music). All of this adds up to a truly monumental release.
But of course it is only January and with new releases promised this year from The National, Fleet Foxes, LCD Soundsystem, Sufjan Stevens (finally) and Arcade Fire it is much too presumptious to be hailing this Album of 2010, but if it isn't in the higher echelons come December I'd be both saddened and shocked.
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