album of the week
Baltimore duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally may have released two well-received albums between 2006 and 2010 but it was only with their third, Teen Dream -- unveiled two years ago -- that they enjoyed international acclaim.
A sophisticated, slow-burning dream-pop collection, its USP was Legrand's cool, disaffected, Nico-like vocals.
Their upward trajectory was given an unexpected boost from St James's Gate, Dublin, when 10 Mile Stereo was selected to soundtrack a Guinness TV and cinema ad.
Fast-forward to today and Beach House are the biggest thing to emerge from the Maryland city since The Wire.
Their new-found status as darlings of US indie has not led to radical surgery. Instead, Bloom distills the winning ingredients of before in one meticulously crafted package.
Once again, the French-born Legrand (niece of the prolific film soundtrack composer, Michael Legrand) is the star of the show -- her faintly tuneless, androgynous vocal likely to repel as many as it attracts.
And Scally -- with producer Chris Coady (Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs; TV on the Radio) playing a significant role -- creates the sort of textured atmospheric sounds that lift this band above the everyday and the clichéd.
Opener Myth demonstrates all that is special about this pair: languid, delicately constructed, mysterious -- it unfurls memorably.
What initially seems to be a slight track is, like so much else here, deceptive -- its true charms only revealing themselves after several listens. A case in point is Wishes -- a fragile, bittersweet song cut from the same cloth as Fleetwood Mac's heart-rending late '70s oeuvre.
And there's more. Lazuli is a sumptuous exercise in that oft-maligned genre, shoegaze, while New Year is a giddy new-wave delight and perhaps the closest tune here that might enjoy crossover appeal.
Granted, Bloom is not as consistently strong as its illustrious predecessor and with a run-time of just over 60 minutes, one feels some of the extraneous fat could perhaps have been trimmed.
But such quibbles should not detract from an impressive achievement and an album that's bound to soundtrack the summer (if we ever get one, that is) for many of us.
KEY TRACKS Wishes; Myth; New Year
Day & Night