Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beach House: Teen Dream

Thanks to SS for his Old Song Review this morning. I think (and told SS) that Jim Croce is like James Taylor but inexplicably MORE boring but that is beside the point. It is a nice song with good imagery, I will give him that. I don't want to scare him away from writing more, so I will hold my tongue and hope his next review rocks a little harder. We now return you to your regularly scheduled pretension.

When it comes to female vocalists in Indie music, women are generally given two options. The Karen O or the Cat Power. The former hoots and squeals and yelps her way through songs, usually blanketed with heavy instrumentals and rock elements. Outside of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I don't really care for this. I am in love with Cat Power and all her derivatives. I love Feist. I love Lykke Li. And now I love Beach House. I love Beach House because they give me the smoky, forlorn vocals I expect from Cat Power, but with rougher orchestration than an acoustic guitar or a piano. An organ arrangement and electric fingerpicking heighten otherwise familiar vocal stylings and simple lyrics. Sometimes it sounds like someone trying to sing in rush hour, but Victoria Legrands voice is strong and warm enough to inspire a sense of intimacy.

It's extremely rare that a group with such a big sound can sound as vulnerable as Cat Power and her acoustic guitar, but Beach House are extremely effective at balancing and pairing sounds to compliment and buoy the vocals. Something as simple as a well-timed crash of a cymbal or a steady drumbeat can add so much to a song, and what Beach House accomplishes here makes you wonder what other aforementioned folksy singers could aspire to with a bit more chutzpah. As it is, Beach House is the only one doing things like this, and that's fine by me.

The best testament to Beach House's mastery of their craft is in the closing track Take Care. As Legrand assuredly sings her verses, you can feel the song building and shifting to something triumphant. Sure enough, no sooner will you think this that Legrand fashions herself a tender crescendo, making the lines 'I'll take care of you/If you asked me to' completely devastating. Maybe it's just me, but the satisfaction in songs like these is in the building of these moments. There's not much more satisfying than that moment when a song realizes the potential it's been hinting at the whole time (see Sigur Ros). There are a lot of these moments on Teen Dream.

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