Beach House’s development from album to album is easy to hear, but difficult to quantify. The Baltimore duo had a winning sound out of the gate, filling its self-titled 2006 debut less with songs and more with moods—swoony dream-pop compositions prodded on by organ, surf guitar, and, of course, Victoria Legrand’s cool, husky vocals. In 2008, Devotion removed some of the molasses, uncovering a handful of sing-along moments and a whole lot more fans, thus paving the way for Teen Dream’s Sub Pop release. Beach House is still a duo. That duo still lilts through its haze. That haze is still gorgeous as all get-out. So what’s changed?
It takes careful listening to pinpoint it, but the difference becomes clear on the penultimate song, “Real Love.” Alex Scally sits down behind the ivories to unravel a melancholy dirge, while Legrand turns in her most compelling on-album performance to date. Nico chilliness cast aside, she cuts a hot swath between, of all people, Tina Turner and Janis Joplin: Turns out she has soul. Teen Dream is deeper in hue than its predecessors. Its blues are bluer, even while warmer tones abound, and Scally’s guitar emotes as lithely as the voice it dances with.
There are little clues scattered throughout Teen Dream—the tempo-warping keyboard tones on “Norway,” the Pixies-like haunt of “Walk In The Park,” the crashing drums that close “10 Mile Stereo”—but Beach House’s progress is measured in moods that deepen with each release.