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Beach House: Bloom
Bloom is the fourth album release by American indie-pop duo Beach House; for anyone familiar with their dreamy sound, this album comes with no disappointments, for anyone who has no idea who this band is: sit back and enjoy.
Made up of French-born Victoria Legrand (vocals/organ) and Baltimore native Alex Scally (guitars/keyboard), Beach House have gained critical acclaim over the years for their signature slow beats, wispy synths and Legrand’s melancholic voice.
Their sound is dreamy with a sense of dramatic endings; it has an almost fantastical quality to it. Their music tells metaphoric tales of battles and heroes, purple hills and invisible wings that allow you to fly; of course, the undeniable lullaby similarity could easily rock you to sleep as well.
Their second album Devotion which earned them their initial popularity is mesmerizing and completely dazed; Teen Dream, which came next, was equally hypnotic but filled with more life. In what seems like a natural progression, Bloom takes one more step forward and almost literally blooms.
The first track ‘Myth’ is a great indicator of what lies ahead. Scally’s guitar flutters with nostalgia, the lingering melody and overall sense of profound finality, Legrand’s eternal poignancy ‘You can't keep hangin' on/To all that's dead and gone’ are perfect representatives of Beach House at their best.
Instead of instantly escaping back into their slow and practically abstract musical pattern, ‘Wild’ is laden with bursts of melodies; ‘Lazuli’ although pleasant with softened hums attached to what feel like travelling rhythms, sounds all too similar to one of their previous songs.
‘Other People’, which speaks in a distinctly 80s language, is coated in synths, full of Psychedelic riffs and slow motion movement; precise, muffled beats ultimately direct it all. The lyrics ‘Other people want to keep in touch/Something happens and it’s not enough’ only add to the nostalgic surge of emotions. It is really quite lovely.
The haunting quality of their music is prominent in ‘Troublemaker’ with an organ leading the way into the song, but instead of lose themselves in the bareness of two individuals distinct of one another; playing two, almost separate sounds – as with much of their previous work – the duo blend, awakening each other along the way. There’s an added fluidity that really draws the listener in.
‘New Year’ and ‘Wishes’ are easygoing and peaceful, perhaps reflective – everything Beach House in some way represents. ‘On the Sea’ is probably the least preferred track on the album, but ‘Irene’ beautifully eliminates any question as to what note Bloom could end on with whispering melodies, penetrating guitar riffs and definitive beats; Legrand’s voice as soothing as a cool breeze on hot skin – leave it for a few minutes when you think it’s ended, and it will start up again.
Bloom is great to listen to as a whole; the beauty in it is you can let it play while you go about whatever it is you do. It’s unobtrusive if you need to it to be but it’s also mystical and engaging; full of imagery and feeling if you will it to be that instead.
One of the shortest tracks on the album is ‘DMT Song’. Created with the help of bassist/vocalist, Thundercat, it is the most vocally dense song on the record. Slow and dreamy, with high-pitched, slightly dissonant, vocals, it's a good intro to the next track, ‘The Nightcaller’. Aptly titled, this song features a groovy dance bass underneath a synthesizer melody that sounds ideal for waving your arms around on the dance floor.
‘Getting There’, with vocals by Niki Randa, is reminiscent of Massive Attack. Not only because of the elongated vocals, but the muffled bass beat and dreamy bell sounds could certainly also have spawned from the brains of 3D and Daddy G. The same goes for ‘Hunger’; a song that sounds like it was recorded underwater and also features Randa. Its spacious melody is broken up by a bridge with echoing vocals and harpsichord-like keyboards.
Erykah Badu is the only vocalist to appear on the album that Flying Lotus hasn’t worked with previously. Her vocals work really well on the African sounding track ‘See Thru To U’ - hopefully, Badu will become incorporated into Ellison’s fixed team of vocalists.
‘Putty Boy Strut’ sounds like a broken toy gone mental, with a catchy musical theme that returns in the deeper layers of ‘Me Yesterday/Corded’.
‘Electric Candyman’ features vocals by Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke, and is a slow track with male and female vocal melodies mixed together in a way that almost sounds disorienting. Yorke’s voice is hardly recognisable, which seems like a waste considering his great, and highly distinguishable, vocal abilities.
Perennial chart-toppers and masterminds behind hit singles like Moves like Jagger, Payphone and One More Night, Maroon 5, are back after a two year hiatus – and expectations are high.
Maps, which was released earlier this years as a single, opens the bands fifth studio album, V, with an upbeat vibe and Levine’s and quite clearly auto-tuned, yet amiable all the same, vocals. The song, just like most of the other songs on the album, is, in classic Maroon 5 fashion; it’s extremely catchy and will almost inevitabely turn into a long-ter, guilty pleasure.
The following track, 'Animals', is somewhat inconspicuous but for Levine’s peculiur howling – literally like an animal – towards the end. Things taka a romantic turn with 'It Was Always You', though the mixture of fast and slow beats and the fact that it largely manages to stay away from clichéd sentiments and cheesy lyrics make it one of the album’s standout tracks.
V then momentarily calms down with the soulful 'Unkiss Me' and then speeds up again with 70’s-inpired chorus of 'Sugar'. Hands-in-the-air, festival-appropriate ballad, 'Leaving California', follows and puts Levine’s high-pitched vocals on full display.
It wouldn’t be a Maroon 5 album without a song about a cheating significant other and 'In Your Pocket' satisfies what has almost become the band’s trademark subject of choice.
From there on, the album takes a turn for the worse, down the boring bubble-gum-pop lane. With themes like demanding a lover’s forgiveness if he ever does her wrong, crooning about getting back to a lover soon and urging a girl to leave other guys and find her way to him in 'Feelings'.
The album, thankfully, ends on a more musically mature note with a touching duet with Gwen Stefani. Piano notes dominate the beat of ‘My Heart is Open’ as Levine and Stefani’s vocals complement each other perfectly.
Ultimately, V is quite indistinguishable from the band’s fourth release, Overexposed. It’s an album that pushes the band further away from the intangible essence that won them so many fans back in 2002 with the release of debut album, Songs About Jane, towards the oblivion of the teen-spirited music they have produce as of late.