The Judges Discuss: Beach House, “Teen Dream”

Moving on, today Beach House's third album goes under the critical microscope...

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Moving on, today Beach House’s third album goes under the critical microscope…

Allan Jones: Another of the seemingly endless line of bands Bella Union have discovered over the last three or four years. This was a record you particularly liked, Hayden, wasn’t it?


Hayden Thorpe: Yeah, I absolutely adored this album, possibly for all the reasons why I wasn’t really taken by the Arcade Fire album, in that it seems so natural in all its compulsions. It seems effortless to me, it seems like this was a moment in time when they managed to capture one feeling. It’s quite basic in the way it’s put together, it just simply relies on its songs and the beauty of the performances, and yet it sounds quite modern because of that. The palette of the songs is very convincing, very believable. That was the key thing for me, I actually believed in the sentiments Victoria [Legrand] was putting across. I found it really endearing, “Walk In The Park” was a song that really took hold of me and gave me faith in that area of music again. I played it a lot earlier in the year when I was away from home, and it was a very comforting and consoling record. It’s very soothing, it’s got that human touch that you can’t really quantify.

Phil Manzanera: I really liked it too. In my plus column for this one I wrote down ‘dreamy’. It’s very beautiful, very ambient, textural. It’s very moving listening to it in autumn, maybe if you’re feeling a little sad and insecure. In the minus column I wrote down that it’s not really terribly original, it’s a bit polite, it’s a bit slow-paced. Yet despite all these minuses I get the feeling that it’s an album I will end up playing every year for years to come. It reminds me of Fleet Foxes in that sense, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a very specific kind of mood. Yes, I like it, but looking at the others we’re discussing today I ask myself is it the album of the year? I would have to say that it’s not.

Danny Kelly: It’s very hard not to like, isn’t it? In places it’s a really great record. My system isn’t pluses or minuses like Phil; what I’ve been tending to do is play an album, not listen to it again for at least two days and then write down what I remember about it. What I’ve got written down here is ‘floating on a raft’. It’s like being on a raft, it takes you off to somewhere that you couldn’t really complain about, not a terrible raft like Tom Hanks was on in Cast Away. Another think I like about it a great deal is that there’s an openness about the record and about the things she’s saying. It’s something that British bands almost find impossible to do these days, because as a nation we’ve all become so cynical. I agree with Phil, it shares some of the strengths of the Fleet Foxes LP of a couple of years ago. Against that, I would say that it is a bit samey at times, every once in a while I wanted a wave to sweep me off the raft. But it’s a good record, I particularly liked “Norway”, although I wouldn’t say it was my favourite LP. Having said that, it’s very hard to say anything against it.


Allan: Sometimes it’s a bit too much to take, it’s almost like a single mood all the way through, it flows very nicely but it needs to shift gear every now and then.

Mark Cooper: I agree with everything that’s already been said. It’s very lovely, and I think what we’re all trying to say is that it’s small but perfectly formed. It reminds me a bit of China Crisis, who I used to work with at Virgin Records back in the day, bands like that at the cusp of the ‘80s, very sweet melodicists. Not so much in the lyrics or the ambience, but more what bands at that time were doing with drum machines and synthesizers. I went to see Beach House at Bush Hall not so long ago, and they were very likeable, but I suppose ultimately it’s like snuggling into duvet – but it is very one-note. Its in its own cocoon, and that smallness is probably what will attract a lot of people to it, but I think it also limits it, in terms of ambition and scale.

Allan: There’s a very attractive sort of modesty about it, it doesn’t make any extravagant claims, it just exists in its own universe.

Tony Wadsworth: I loved it, and I can fully understand Danny’s Kon-Tiki take on it! I loved its intimacy, the fact that it’s just music for its own sake. You just felt like they were making it because that’s how they [Victoria and Alex Scally] communicated with each other. It’s like they were welcoming us into their private little world, which is a nice place to be for 40 minutes. Yes, it is just one mood, but sometimes you want that from an album, you don’t want to be taken all over the shop. You could criticise it for maybe lacking ambition, but I just think it’s small and fresh and lovely. “Zebra” is probably the best opening track on any of the albums here; as soon as you hear those first 10 seconds, you’re with them and you want to be with them.


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