Sub Pop Records
Grade: 8.89 (B+)
I've given Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House's fourth album a couple weeks worth of listens before passing a proper judgement. It is, for me at least, my most anticipated release of 2012. I wanted to give it ample time to see if it tugged at my heart me as much as their previous release 2010's ethereal wonder "Teen Dream" did. It happened to be station to station's Top Album Of 2010. So I basked in "Bloom" to see if it had the same effect. And after several listens I've come to the conclusion that "Bloom" is a different album than their last album, but yet it's still playing the same formula. "Bloom" is like going on a vacation somewhere and having the time of your life and then going back two years later trying to relive that "time of your life". The elements are there, but something is a little different. For better or worse it makes "Bloom" another solid record from Beach House.
Of course it's going to be tough not to compare "Bloom" with "Teen Dream" so let me just start with that right off the bat. What's missing from "Bloom" for me is the devastating and yearning moments from their 2010 standout. When lead singer Victoria LeGrand howled over soundtracks for the lonely stuck on a dark beach with waves crashing down around her ("Silver Soul", "Norway", "Take Care"), they were heartbreaking, wonderous moments on "Teen Dream." Songs on "Bloom" tend to not have those yearning tendencies. The album and LeGrand's vocal delivery stays even keel and seamless from end to end keeping the same tone throughout it's ten songs. Even if their isn't as many high points, LeGrand's vocals tend to work even better at times with Alex Scally's arrangements. Opener "Myth" has the interplay between the two at their best. The yearning is more subdued but equally as wonderful when LeGrand repeats the refrain "Help me to make it" over lush keys and guitars on the opener. That formula is in tact and works just as well on other standouts "Wild", "Other People" and "Wishes". Beach House is still the lone masters of providing wistful and ethereal dream pop gems.
A lot of people may have looked at "Bloom" as Beach House's big moment to grab the spotlight with a knockout punch of dream pop classics. I was one of them who thought they would go with this approach. But they didn't exactly do that. Beach House has stayed with the same approach, but they sound more comfortable on "Bloom". It can be a bit jarring waiting for big moments to arrive like they did on "Teen Dream". But it's still a more than satisfying listen, even if the killer hooks are harder to find. It's very challenging, but so is the heartbreak and isolation that LeGrand and Scully have gotten down to a science in delivering.
JHO Picks: Myth, Other People, The Hours, Wishes