The decade isn’t even over and we’ve got some masterpieces on our hands. We could have picked Visions, The Suburbs or if we’re talking classics waiting to happen – Weird Sister. Bloom isn’t any of those albums, and rightfully so. It exists on its own plane, a grand, dark, romantic piece of art that refuses to give anything away and allows itself to bury itself deep in the consciousness. It isn’t a concept album, its title and artwork are infuriatingly open to interpretation. It could mean the band doing exactly that – blooming into the band that they had inside of them all along when they were making dusty whisperings about Apple Orchards. Bloom didn’t come from nowhere, it formed from Teen Dream, which is exactly like what the title suggests it is. That was Beach House’s big breakthrough record, but Bloom is the coalescing of their past, present and future.
‘Myth’ is Beach House at their most mysterious and ambitious. If Alex Scally’s guitarwork was impressive on Teen Dream, then it expands further on ‘Myth’, with a sprawling section of arpeggiated notes gliding into one another for a good two minutes, until he draws out four chords heavy on the reverb. ‘Myth’s lyrics are purposefully vague, but the overall emotions that come across is confusion and relief. Legrand pleads ‘Help me to name it’ on the chorus, but what is ‘it?’. Maybe the reason ‘Myth’ is so indecipherable is that Legrand can’t quite put her finger on the message itself, and that emotion, possibly for a loved one, is so strong that it’s impossible to put it into words. Legrand and Scally enclose themselves in fantasy on the line ‘What comes after this / Momentary bliss’, something they’ve written about a few times. Even their band name is dedicated to a solitary world away from the rest of reality. Legrand is constantly chasing the feeling, though she might not know what it is, she knows it is ‘bliss’. Many times in interviews Legrand and Scally have been unable to describe what their band sounds like, no out of some kind of pretentiousness, but because it is truly hard to explain what they are. ‘Dream-pop’ is a surface description, and the ‘dream’ is certainly in Beach House’s material. They inhabit small fantasies tucked away in mundane reality. If you look at at of their album artwork photos that come with the music, Beach House is a super-zoomed image of gold, pearls and chains, Devotion is another super-zoomed set of images around flowers, gems and statues. They’re physical manifestations of these worlds that Beach House explore – We can’t touch the world of ‘Myth’, because it’s a feeling, but we can connect with it on a spiritual level.
I’m always tempted to say that Beach House have an air of childlike innocence and wonder about them, but that’s wrong. They’re more like children on the cusp of adulthood, making sense of the world around them whilst clinging onto the small fantasy worlds that only childhood can conjure up. On ‘Wishes’, when Legrand sings ‘The voices in the hall / will carry on their talking / carry weight you can’t take’, it will be familiar to anyone who has heard parents and family talking in the hall, or behind closed doors, and being infuriated that you aren’t allowed a say as they are ‘carrying your weight’. When Legrand sings ‘Wishes on a wheel’, she’s talking about the constant movement of wishes, up and down, disappearing and reappearing. It has connotations with the concept of the Wheel of Fortune, on which we are all placed and rotate around according to our fortune. It’s like the saying of ‘What goes around comes around’, but that has a negative message. Legrand and Scally see it as a wish for love and the possibility of it reappearing. Legrand sings ‘The roses on the lawn won’t know which side you’re on’, drawing attention to the fact that love is ageless and will come and go as it pleases. The song is about how love isn’t confined to an age, and as the wish of love is on a wheel, it can’t be broken off, so even in old age it can come back around.
Flowers come back again in ‘The Hours’. The song, about confusion and risk in love, has Legrand sing ‘violence in the flowers’, a direct contrast between beauty and violence. Legrand sees a darkness in the beauty of the person, contributing to the constant questioning of whether to profess her love, and whether she has to ‘Climb up to the tower’ in order to make a grand gesture of love in an attempt to capture their feelings. The best lyric on the song, however, comes from ‘It’s all in a glance you’ll see / Don’t forget about me’. To detour from Beach House completely, there’s a scene in Frances Ha where the protagonist, Frances, says this:
It’s that thing when you’re with someone, and you love them and they know it, and they love you and you know it… but it’s a party… and you’re both talking to other people, and you’re laughing and shining… and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes… but – but not because you’re possessive, or it’s precisely sexual… but because… that is your person in this life. And it’s funny and sad, but only because this life will end, and it’s this secret world that exists right there in public, unnoticed, that no one else knows about. It’s sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us, but we don’t have the ability to perceive them. That’s – That’s what I want out of a relationship. Or just life, I guess.
The funny thing is, that movie ends with that exact moment that Frances describes, but with her friend, not her lover. Legrand connects with this moment (it’s coincidental that they share the same message), the possibilities between friendship and love, and the mysterious worlds that love can create. I think that sums up the point of Beach House completely.
It’s probably not a surprise at this point that Bloom is our favourite album. The instrumentation, which we’ve failed to praise enough, is vast and expansive, like the worlds that Legrand explores. ‘The Hours’ is like heavy, rolling rock translated into dream-pop and ‘Troublemaker’ has a lovely cascading section of keys and guitar intertwining with each other, and then there’s the arpeggiated synth on ‘Lazuli’ that bounces along underneath the song. But of course, it’s the themes that strike the hardest on Bloom. We’ve covered a lot of ‘themed’ albums during our time on classic reviews, but how do you write a theme album about emotions you can’t quite explain? Well, ‘Myth’ addresses that, by talking about the emotions themselves. Bloom itself is a myth, a hushed prayer just as Beach House peaked in popularity that expanded on Teen Dream in every way possible. It’s vague as hell, but Beach House ask you to dig a little deeper, and in the process, find your way into their little universes that they’ve carved out in the mundanity of normal life.