Now that all the end-of-the-year and end-of-the-decade fervor has subsided, we’re already starting to see some recent releases being touted by the indie tastemakers as early front-runners for “top album of 2010.”
The most ballyhooed is Contra by Vampire Weekend. But another that has been receiving plenty of love is Beach House’s Teen Dream.
It’s the third full-length release from the Baltimore-based dream pop duo consisting of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. I’d listened to their second album, Devotion, once and wasn’t necessarily floored. Couple that with the fact that they’ve been so hyped by Pitchfork and its brethren, and I found myself growing to resent Beach House a little.
I decided I should give their entire catalogue a listen before I officially passed judgement.
Their self-titled debut dropped in October 2006, followed by Devotion in February 2008. The two albums sound pretty similar — heavy on the atmospheric rhythms and haunting lyrics but lacking much variation.
So it didn’t bode well for Teen Dream as far as I was concerned. However, early on it becomes clear that Beach House’s sound has evolved during the past couple years.
I’m not a musician, so I can’t always describe what I’m hearing, but Teen Dream definitely seems to have a lot more going on than the two earlier albums. The songs are more complex and more filled-out.
The first single, “Norway“, was somewhat bittersweet for me. It’s a solid little ditty from the opening accordion note — which, by the way, called to mind both the Sea Wolf single, “Winter Windows“, and just about any Decemberists song.
The problem with “Norway” is that it sounds so much like “Ghost Under Rocks” by Ra Ra Riot, that I couldn’t get the latter out of my head and kept waiting for the song to transition accordingly.
Thankfully, the next track on the album, “Walk In the Park”, turned out to be my favorite and helped erase some of the bitterness of the preceding song.
The rest of the album is also pretty solid, and, as a whole, Teen Dream probably deserves much of the praise it has been receiving.
So, what have we learned today?
Teen Dream? Good.