Teen Dream

LIVE: Beach House @ The 9:30 Club - 10/17/12

All photos by Joy Asico (joy@chunkyglasses.com / www.asicophoto.com)

Beach House drifted into D.C. last week, bringing along an extra drummer and stage props designed to look like an abandoned industrial warehouse, and the 9:30 Club turned into a film noir set for a night. The Baltimore based band is synonymous with dreamscape-ish atmospheric pop, and Wednesday’s show, the final performance of the American leg of their Frightened Eyes tour, showcased the recent work of a group you'd expect to see playing in the background of a bar scene in Blade Runner. Performing songs drawn primarily from this year’s Bloom and 2010’s Teen Dream, Beach House mesmerized the audience, who stood transfixed for most of the evening as songs broke over the densely-packed house like waves next to, uh, a beach house.

Alex Scally walked onto a dark stage and played the opening strain to “Wild” to start the show, joined by touring drummer Daniel Franz on a simple snare line. When Victoria Legrand emerged a few minutes later and took over center stage, the mostly somber crowd reacted with the largest outpouring of emotion of the night, singing along as Legrand growled, and “My mother said to me, that I would get in trouble...” Legrand’s live voice was raw and almost guttural at times, but blended beautifully with the layers of looping vocals running in the background. It’s not a secret that most bands now play loops of prior-recorded material during their live shows, to mimic the way a song is constructed on the album, and electronic-based bands rely on this technique even more - the only glitches were a few occasions where Legrand pulled her face away from the mike to swing her fantastic mane of hair, clearly no longer singing, while the vocals continued on without her. She wasn’t lip-synching, because her mike was louder and more distinct than any of the back-up vocal tracks, but it was still a bit of a disconnect to hear lyrics while visually seeing no mouths moving on stage.

REVIEW: Beach House - Bloom

Since their 2006 eponymous debut, things haven’t changed much for Beach House.  They still peddle in immense amounts of reverb, elementary drum machines, Alex Scally’s trilling guitars, and Victoria Legrand’s soaring vocals.  But why should it change?  Artistic “growth” is overrated when you create beautiful work.  AC/DC managed to keep the hits coming until the early Eighties without changing any of its elements.  On the other hand, bands like Interpol keep mixing up the beans, cheese, and meat of its music to diminishing results. 

Thankfully, Beach House’s “Bloom” fits into the AC/DC mold.  The band grows a little by stripping away some of the haze away from the vocals, improving production, and turning up the guitars.  But this is more tinkering of the Beach House RV, rather than a new engine or even a different muffler.