This is the part where I pretend you all haven’t already heard Bloom, haven’t already formulated an opinion on it, or haven’t flagged “Lazuli” for inclusion on a summer mixtape. It’s entirely possible you don’t know Bloom leaked until now, but judging by my Twitter feed from eight weeks ago, most of you joined the collective meltdown that happened when word of the album’s MediaFire presence surfaced. And that’s fine. I’m not here to call for bottling up the genie that is Free Music All The Time, but consider this: For the second album in a row–2010’s Teen Dream and Bloom—the indie community flipped out at a new Beach House album leaking for about a week, and then moved on to new business (what up, Japandroids leak?). It’s hard to not see that as a negative: By the time the album actually comes out this week, all that’s left to do is wonder when the band will tour behind it.
Because here’s the rub: This is a band that has hit its stride in a way that’s hard to articulate, and even harder to pull off effectively. After two albums spent searching for a way to make their limited palette sound large and hitting its stride the last go-round, Beach House can lay claim to being one of the most consistently rewarding, consistently stellar bands in all of indie rock. They’ve nailed their formula; they can do this without blinking. We’re talking rarified air here, people. We don’t usually allow bands to hang out after their hype cycle runs its course—or we let the pressure crack them first–and Beach House are out here with two of the best albums of the 2010s.
Bloom lacks the cranium deflating surprise of Teen Dream—which traded the band’s glacial, serpentine drone for something sparklier—because Bloom doesn’t benefit from being able to sneak up on listeners unaware. Still, Bloom might as well be the Teen Dream patch update you’ve been waiting for since 2010. The crowd pleasing, torch carrying, Big Moment anthems are here, built on their sturdy–but crystalline–guitars and organ, and grounded by Victoria Legrand’s brassy singing instrument. Nothing more expected, nothing less delivered.
But damned if there’s a band that can make you feel it more than Beach House; from the Westeros grandeur of “Myth” to the thunderstorm clang of “Irene” this is an album built on Mountains of Emotion. That Emotion might be lamenting that people hang on to dead relationships too long (“Other People”), the fright in the eyes of a commitment phobe (“The Hours”), to wondering what is even real (“Wishes”). Lyrically, Legrand is as lyrically oblique and morose as ever, but she’s able to make her own inner thoughts universal thanks to the overwhelming conviction of her voice. As such, guitarist Alex Scally usually gets left out of discussions of the band, but his status as “secret weapon” ends here: He’s better at conjuring up images of windswept vistas, breezy wheat fields, and large bodies of water than any of the bands that followed in Explosions in the Sky’s sizable wake.
If albums are a land you disappear into for an hour to escape the dreariness of your life, no one makes better dreamlands than Beach House. You’d have thought by now that the band’s sound would have run its course or seem frail. It’s the opposite here: Beach House could probably do this for the next 15 years and it’ll still sound so inviting, lush, and downright perfect. In 2006, it seemed like Beach House couldn’t outlive Beach House. In 2012, Bloom is the bar to clear. Long live Beach House.