Beach House’s last album, Teen Dream, represented a startling advance. The band’s gauzy sound gained a solid footing in live drums. Singer Victoria Legrand’s voice turned deeper, more sensual and nuanced, little curves in the notes suggesting earthier genres like soul and R&B. The glittering surfaces of partner Alex Scally’s guitar lines hinted, somehow, at deeper, stranger currents underneath. The whole thing seemed realer, more grounded, more weighted with significance than its pretty predecessors, though still imbued with a drifting, codeine strangeness.
Bloom, the band’s fourth full-length, will be fine with listeners looking for more of the same. The sound is nearly identical to its predecessor — soft, enveloping, layered with clean translucent sounds. Again, the drums (that’s Daniel Franz, who once played in Arbouretum) lend a rough, insistent forward motion, giving shape and sense to songs that might otherwise swirl in endless multicolored smoke rings. Again, Legrand sings with a knowing air, her soft, vibrato-free voice intimating maturity, loss, the transitory nature of pretty things. And, again, Scally couches Beach House’s slow-blooming, hazy melodies in glimmering textures of guitar, keyboards and bass, his arrangements embedding bright flashes in rolling banks of fog. If anything, the production is cleaner and more assured than on Teen Dream, allowing more of these elements to be picked out and considered — the trilling keyboards, the rough-housing drums of “Myth” living somehow in harmony, staccato drum machine beats swallowed up, but not extinguished, in the lush swells of “Lazuli.” The crescendos, in particular, seem fuller, more enveloping, more transporting than before, closing “Lazuli” in dizzy overload, pushing “Wishes” to drum-thundering conclusion.
Yet, after Teen Dream‘s big step, these seem like minor tweaks. Lovely as it is, Bloom makes no big departures and takes no risks. If you wanted Teen Dream all over again, and god knows there are plenty of people who do, this is your record. It’s only the folks who sensed a band in the midst of transformation rather that at its logical conclusion, who will be disappointed.