Beach House - Teen Dream
When 2008's Devotion was received to great acclaim on many of the music sites I frequent and respect, I felt immediately compelled to pick up and copy and listen and listen and listen. And I did. But, I was never that impressed. The music, while beautiful always seemed too low-key and quiet. All the lushness within the album was appreciated, but there never felt like anything was there for my tastes to latch onto. Now, maybe I expected something else, maybe I just wasn't ready, but I have listened to Devotion dozens of times, even in my musically elitist office, and there's never been a "a-ha moment" where one of us or all of us finally proclaims, "Shit! That is a good album!" I considered, that I was taking a Luke Skywalker training with Yoda for the first time point-of-view when it came to Beach House where liking it after a while wasn't possible, and to expect it of myself was like asking me to lift a spaceship out of a bog with my mind. So, with that as my context I heard another succession of positive takes on Beach House's newest Teen Dream, and somewhat reluctantly approached it. I'm not afraid to be wrong, at least when it comes to music, so I took another shot.
Whether it is luck or timing or musical skill, or some combination of the three (Lutimusiskill?) I have fallen for Teen Dream. It is as lush and dream poppy as Devotion, but it brings faster pacing and more accessible melodies to the table to compliment the occasional dour entry. Where Devotion seemed depressed and outright oppressive to listen to without interruption, Team Dream invites listening as it glides and meanders from upbeat to downbeat and back again. The lyrics remain mostly dark, as on the opening track "Zebra" which taps into deception and running with/getting lost in the herd. The imagery is especially powerful, zebras being beautiful animals, essentially familiar animals in that they are nearly horses, but also animals built to deceive predators by mixing into a crowd where all semblance of individuality is lost. For Beach House, the zebra is disappearing because it is wise, but also because it is innately disingenuous. The tone of the entire album is set right there. Beach House litters Teen Dream with existential questions and lost love (all concepts that more realistically describe teen nightmares). And yet, through all of that, the album never feels unrepentantly emo or depressive. Like a dream, the melodies and music lull you, embrace you and enliven you, all while the lyrical content batters you with reality. In that way it's a concept album, but I'd never boil it down to just a concept because it's more than just a single idea, it's an entire era of human developmental existence concentrated into 10 songs.
And, after listening to this at the office, there was a resounding "a-ha moment" immediately after the first play through. "Shit! This is a good album!" Go buy it.
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