Beach House, Beach House
Drone-pop goes gorgeous and playful
Beach House is a lovely, unassuming straight pop record played as drone by Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand, two nice folks from Baltimore. On a strictly aesthetic level, Beach House fits neatly into the well-heeled drone/dream-pop lineage, from "I'm Only Sleeping" to the Byrds circa 1967-68 to The Velvet Underground to My Bloody Valentine to Mazzy Star to Fennesz to some kid's bedroom in suburban Florida's well-mulched cul-de-sacs.
Drone/dream-pop/space-rock/whatever you wanna call it is a defiantly middle-class music: a quaint, privileged rebellion against the blacks and whites of the day-to-day bustle, against the expectations of parents, responsibility and life, a longing stare into a safer and softer version of this spinning orb, a space without hardened edges, lights, opinions or ends. With its meditative pauses (it's all pause, really), it's basically the musical equivalent of that post-high school year in Europe, only rather than self-discovery in a German youth hostel, it's salvation through the hum of an EBow.
What's truly wonderful about Beach House, then, is how fully Scally and Legrand embrace their own class. Whereas many records bearing these same hazy production touchstones shroud themselves in filters of soft white noise and an allergic reaction to melody — perhaps to deny the mores of music they reject — Beach House puts its beauty center stage, Legrand's voice Nico-like in tone, belabored enunciation and forcefulness. (Unlike Nico, though, you can actually understand all of the words on first listen, a nice touch!) Some of the melodies are shockingly flirtatious and almost soul-like, such as "Master of None," one of the album's best songs and a mix-tape essential — Casanovas take note!
In "Master of None," Legrand's voice twinkles with a playful lilt not far from something Smokey Robinson might have written. And then there's that great opening couplet, drawing a line (I think) between using "bird" to refer to women and the singles game: "You always go to the parties/To pluck the feathers off phone numbers." Now, that's clever (I think). "Master" is definitely the track to start with, but not where you should stop: "Apple Orchard," "Childhood" and "Tokyo Witch" in particular are truly wonderful.