My friend, Sara, recently moved to Argentina. Before she left, I asked her what led to this spur-of-the-moment decision. She told me that it was always something she had thought about doing, and one rainy day she listened to too much Beach House and decided to just buy the damn plane ticket.
In my mind, that is the precursor to any discussion about this band.
This is a cliche but I swear it’s true: if Victoria Legrand and Co. didn’t invent the “dream pop” genre, they certainly perfected it.
Their latest, Bloom, is nearly flawless: mellow synthesizers and ethereal guitars over Legrand’s deep wail create less of a sound and more of a texture. This is not an album for active listening, but for daydreaming. The lyrics don’t really matter (although they’re often pretty interesting and/or poetic), and even the individual instruments aren’t something you can pay attention to when you put the record on.
Rather, Beach House has recorded a series of profound feelings; the perfect backing track to daydreams, the sounds you hear when you’re having an epiphany, what it sounds like to find yourself in a new and strange place.
That all probably sounds a bit too profound, so let me also add that the live Beach House experience, caught at the Wilbur this week, is not exactly like the recorded one. Live, the show is hypnotic (yeah, I said it, and yeah, it probably goes without saying), but it provides tried and true Beach House fans an opportunity to dissect where those conjured emotions come from and to really understand how they got that perdy sound.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know that behind tracks like “Irene” and “Myth” there were actual people playing real instruments, I just never really thought about it until it was right in front of me.
For example, I realized that Alex Scally was actually a pretty good guitar player (he pulled off that really fast, steady one-note thing that Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner does pretty much always). Also, Legrand’s voice is actually kind of insane. I’m fairly certain she couldn’t miss a note if she tried. Rather than a separate piece of a musical whole, she uses her voice very instrumentally. The breathy heaves she implements in the beginning of songs like “Lazuli” are almost like a bizarre drum machine. Plus her tone is so deep and rich that it evokes strings across a cello more than it evokes a person. All things I learned from their live show!
Bottom line: if you’re not already a fan of the band, I’m not really sure what you will get out of their live show other than a dreamy (sometimes potentially sleepy) experience.
But if you’re already into Beach House, you’ll get new insights into this awesome three-piece, and also maybe you’ll buy a plane ticket to Argentina. I have a friend you can stay with.
Photos by Jason Speakman