While it’s difficult to nitpick Beach House’s short-but-sweet catalogue, it’s easy to see why the band’s third and latest release far outshines its predecessors. Opening track “Zebra” starts with a gently plucked guitar line and Victoria Legrand’s signature sighing trill, then slowly climbs in pace and power ’til hitting its sweeping, organ-backed end. Like past Beach House efforts, Legrand and her collection of Hammonds and Farfisas are the stars here, and together they drive Teen Dream to altogether new heights. Where 2008’s beautifully understated Devotion resonated by way of its sleepy simplicity, Dream builds upon Legrand’s and Scally’s love of all things textured, layering vague-but-resonating lyrics over multiple organ parts, swirling electric guitars, understated percussion, and breathy vocal deliveries that move from dreamy to driving to downright punchy.
Still, it’s not just the tempo that makes Dream the success it is. Throughout the album, Legrand appears at her most lyrically ambitious, crafting songs that are strangely nostalgic and achingly lovelorn, even as their subjects remain hauntingly unclear.
“Teen Dream is completely about obsession and all of the richest, most intense feelings of life — crushes, insane passion, wonderment,” Scally explains. “It’s about the feelings that kind of get rubbed down by age. All the songs are really different, and they all get at different things about it; that kind of wild and free, passionate feeling that you get from time to time in your life.”
That intensity is mirrored throughout the disk, both in song and sequencing. Where “10 Mile Stereo” cranks the volume up to 11, “Real Love” follows with its melancholy waltz and distant-sounding vocals, as if to mimic the hot and cold tendencies of young love. Similarly, it’s Dream‘s final track that leaves the most lasting impression. Replete with swirling guitars, soft and steady drum work, and oh-so-subtle distortion tricks, “Take Care” is the ultimate hopeful romantic promise, not to mention a perfect end for what will no doubt prove to be one of the best albums of 2010.