Every once in a while, a band comes along that has that perfect mix of mystery and talent, exuding emotion that both bewilders and intrigues even its most die-hard fans. Baltimore’s Beach House is one of those bands. The duo, made up of vocalist and organist Victoria Legrand and multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally, have been garnering critical praise since their dreamy self-titled debut appeared in 2006 via Carpark Records. In 2008, the pair followed it up with the dazzlingly understated Devotion, replete with vintage organ tones and Legrand’s somber, breathy vibrato.
Still, it’s Teen Dream, the band’s not-so-quiet January release — their first on Seattle’s Sub Pop Records — that seems to be where everyone’s attention is focused nowadays. Over the course of Dream’s 10 tracks, Scally and Legrand build upon their love of all things textured, layering vague-but-resonating lyrics over multiple organ parts, swirling electric guitars, understated percussion, and Legrand’s signature vocal deliveries. The new album gives a peppy twist to once-sleepy dream-pop structures, and for Scally, it’s making all the difference.
“When you’re touring constantly like we’ve been, you tire really quickly of what you used to do,” he explained via phone. “We kill the songs on the road, and when we get home, we want to make something different, but we’re still the same minds, and we still have the same aesthetics. I think Teen Dream ended up being a lot livelier and a lot more exciting because we felt so boring on tour. We felt like the [old] songs were flat, like we couldn’t bring them to life enough. We got home from touring [in 2008] and we started working, and this is just sort of what happened. That’s the great thing about touring; it really pushes you forward.”
Luckily, it’s not just Teen Dream’s lively tempo that makes it. Throughout the album, Legrand appears at her most ambitious lyrically, 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,” explained Scally. “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, but it is that kind of wild and free, passionate feeling that you get from time to time in your life.”
Further upping the artistic ante, the duo has also turned Teen Dream into an interactive affair, curating a DVD of music videos to accompany the album. Each song’s visual counterpoint was developed and executed by a different artist, all friends of the band, and without any direction from Scally or Legrand.
“We wanted it to be the song given to the artist and them giving something back with their vision,” said Scally. “It’s a DVD reaction. It’s not like music videos in the traditional sense of one.”
But that’s really no surprise, as these two pop auteurs have long strayed from the traditional. They write almost exclusively in seclusion and fully orchestrate their tracks before ever even stepping foot in a recording studio. They take their art seriously, but not pretentiously, and are the first to joke about Teen Dream being their “sellout” album. And they pay minute detail to their live shows.
As for this round of dates, which includes a stop at SOhO this Friday, April 16, Scally explains, “We’re taking it very seriously. Whatever people have experienced in their homes, we want to make something as heavy as that happen live. At this point, the only way to survive is to make it amazing every night and try to do something new and try to give people something that they would never expect, but that they love. We’ll see if it works.”
Beach House play SOhO this Friday, April 16, at 8 p.m. with openers The Middle East. Call 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com for details.