Beach House’s 2010 breakthrough Teen Dream found Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally replacing the peeling floral wallpaper of a pair of bedroom releases with metallic hues and sharp lines. In many respects, Teen Dream was the Baltimore duo’s debut album, the record that revealed its vision as fully formed. Like all great sequels, Bloom takes what worked before and intensifies it, lining up humming synthesizers, luminous guitar tones, and intricate human and digital percussion to create an even more alluring package. Of the numerous bands now revisiting the neon ’80s, Beach House—with Chris Coady, returning on production duties—deserves credit for constructing the most unmistakable sonic identity.
But Bloom has more to offer than textural lushness. “The Hours” shifts with ease from a driving riff to strolling arpeggios, while “New Year” obscures Legrand’s desirous lyrics with a mist of shoegaze guitars. “Troublemaker” reinvigorates the band’s older psychedelic influences with a soaring, straining vocal from Legrand, whose confident alto is the emotional engine behind the album’s array of sleek moving parts. The band’s only weakness is predictability: The clockwork arrangements and spartan melodies too often choose safety over surprises.
Beach House is at its best on “Other People” and “New Year,” playful tracks that let the sound breathe and Legrand revel in shifting moods. “It’s never as it seems,” she sings on “Myth,” and many of the songs address a struggle for order—a fight Beach House might do well to abandon. But, for now, Legrand and Scally have earned the right to stay in place: With Bloom, they have mastered their sultry formula.