Teen Dream came out in early 2010. It was Beach House’s most commercially successful outing, the moment when the obscure, sluggish dream-pop duo could finally claim a substantial national audience. It also came out amid a landslide of new pop that was more energetic. Albums from Phoenix, Yeasayer, Neon Indian, Robyn, LCD Soundsystem, Flying Lotus, and other indie ass-shakers dominated the conversation — stuff that’d work both in headphones and on a crowded dance floor.
Rocking back and forth as you hug yourself, head cocked to one side in a dead stare, might be the most appropriate dance for a Beach House song. So it figures that Teen Dream maybe paled in comparison to its peers. Two years later, with those bands out of steam or on a break, the time is ripe for Bloom.
Beach House has perfected a style. From album to album the band changes very little, amassing a library of woozy ballads made up of electric guitar, drum-machine loops, and an electric organ. If anything, Bloom sounds most like 2008’s Devotion, in which singer Victoria Legrand began to embrace her surprising range. It’s taken the band’s newer work to the next level.
Legrand’s brilliance is subtle but crucial to Beach House’s success. She has almost three different voices: a comfortable middle range; a prickly, masculine low growl; and a childlike head voice. Each is equally lovely, and on Bloom, Legrand’s vocal control reaches new heights. Early tracks “Other People,” “Myth,” “Wild,” and “Hours” are quick to win you over, but given the right mood, the album is delightful in its entirety. (Sub Pop)