Just like Burial, Arcade Fire, Kanye West, Animal Collective and LCD Soundsystem, Beach House have become a real musical emblem. Their name is more important than their albums themselves, which - more than typical collections of songs - have become collective religious experiences. The spell of their music is particularly captivating because of its hypnotic, ethereal, narcotic air. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally started to really outline it in “Devotion” (2008), and they thoroughly established themselves with “Teen Dream”, released a little over two years ago - an album that I said at the time was the definitive Beach House. I was wrong. The definitive Beach House album is this one, titled “Bloom”. Furthermore, considering how clearly it shows its ability to surpass, we can’t even be certain that it won’t be outdone.
The Baltimore duo’s fourth album raised expectations from its very announcement, promising to be one of the big releases of 2012, and given how early it was leaked, it became one of the most anxiously-awaited ones. It’s been being played on repeat mode in thousands of homes for nearly two months, but the initial date chosen by the authors for everyone to be able to listen to it legally was this one, the middle of May, when flowers are starting to burst open and the sun starts to burn a little on your skin. However in reality, these things can be set aside. Dates and deadlines mean little when we are faced with such a timeless work of art. Although this work is so timeless that it makes the word a cliché; it glides high above times and scenes that restrict it - to reveal itself to be the absolute enemy of exhaustion. Listening to it repeatedly is like anchoring yourself to an otherworldly space. Its moving virtues are interiorized instantly. And its grandeur eclipses the senses.
But let’s set aside the extreme praise and try to explain the impact of “Bloom” with our feet on the ground. The question on everyone’s mind is: is it as good as “Teen Dream”, or is it even better? For me they are like two brother albums, and like a parent with more than one child, it’s impossible for me to choose the one I love the most. This one (the older brother, maybe?) resembles the other physically, although this should never be understood in the sense of a stagnation or even a repetition of the formula. On the contrary. The details might go unnoticed (among other things, because we have “Teen Dream” seared into our memory, and its image runs the risk of having been over-magnified with respect to “Bloom”), but if we listen to both works together alternately, we can easily see that this one is more imposing, almost abrasive. Alex couldn’t have expressed it better when he recently confessed to us that here the group’s songs went from being planets to being galaxies. Others have defined “Bloom” as a “Teen Dream” pumped up on steroids, and there is some truth in that as well. Anyway, the thing is that the sparing tone, and even the sequencing, calls to mind other assemblies that we already know; but the structures seem to have complicated themselves more, the production is more solid, and the crescendos explode now with an overwhelming atmosphere.
The sound of “Bloom” - based on the Baltimore duo’s characteristic mixture of luxurious psychedelic, half-awake dream-pop, and translucent shoegaze - gains greater impact and liveliness. And sensitivity, too. Each song is a wellspring of emotional states. As a whole it moves towards a musical immensity that is almost impossible to understand, and in contrast with the closeness of its universal poetry, it ends up generating an exquisite contrast between the intimate and the vast, the fragile and the magnificent. The very title, “Bloom”, can be read as a symbol of fragility, a tiny emotional space from which we begin to trace an arc that eventually expands to reach the confines of the universe. “Myth”, the first cut, situates us in the cosmos ( “Found yourself in a new direction / Aeons far from the sun”) , distant as we are from that recurring figure in Beach House’s texts, the sun. In “Wild”, the reference to nature is more direct ( “Mother Earth herself is the wild one”) , and with “Lazuli” another common setting is rediscovered, the sea, the symbol of eternity recurring in old songs like “Saltwater” and “Turtle Island”. We return to the symbol later in this same album, in “On The Sea”; a cut whose final verses ( “The world becomes / And swallows me in”) are revealing, as we hear them just before a majestic wave of synthesizers literally devours Victoria. The effect achieved is metaphysically masterful.
Victoria is the one responsible for the lyrics, and given her aversion to promotional interviews and the cryptic quality of her lyrics, it is tempting to untangle the meanings that she has hidden in the songs this time. One concept that torments her, as she has declared, is her recently discovered awareness of the passing of time. Like all of us, Victoria knows that it is impossible to rescue the past in the dimension of reality, but not in the world of illusions; and even less so in a Beach House album. Her insistence on recovering a lost time is also crystallized in the lyrics of “Wild” ( “Can I believe in how the past is what will catch you?”), although perhaps the most beautiful moment in that respect is located in “ The Hours”. Here the main character is seeking to be rescued - it’s not clear whether from a time or a place - and she asks her rescuer to scan the landscape from the heights to find her: “Climb up to the tower / So that you can see / All across the hours”. “Wishes” is also a cut that evokes things that happen only once in life, those lovers who are impossible to replace with others. In it, one cries over the irreversibility of time, but only after “New Year” has vaccinated us against nostalgia by teaching us to project memories into the future.
Drawing conclusions, removing ourselves from the inside of this torrential beauty, we will discover how the impossibility of rescuing the past ends up obligating Alex and Victoria to recreate parallel dimensions. They themselves have underlined it several times, saying that the album explores “the irreplaceable power of the imagination” or the overarching theme of “Bloom”: unreality. This is what Beach House’s philosophy seems to base itself on, a chimerical limbo which, let us remember, led them to put the word “dream” in the title of their previous masterpiece and which is alluded to several times over the course of this one. The feeling of living in an illusory world appears time and again in the lyrics, as if it were a ghost. “It's never as it seems”, we hear in “ Myth”, “Feel it isn’t real” in “ The Hours”, “Is it even real?” in “ Wishes”... The riddle only seems to be solved in “Irene”, a devastating ending sustained by a stubborn guitar that seems not to want to let the album go. “There’s no mystery at all”, says one of the few lines, before the final verse declares: “It’s a strange Paradise / You’ll be waiting”. We are left spellbound by the ending, pinching ourselves in the face of such a display of sonic, lyrical sublimation. It seems that it is time to wake up. The sun is coming.