Atmosphere was Beach House's defining characteristic on both their 2006 self-titled debut and 2008's gorgeous Devotion. On those records, the band paid homage to such dream-pop progenitors as Cocteau Twins by filtering melancholy, gray-day textures through a lo-fi lens. Their compositions were simple, catchy keys-guitar-drum machine odes, soaked in as much reverb as a bedroom studio could provide. For Teen Dream, the group's third LP, songwriters Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have decided to open up their sonic palette a little more broadly and, in the process, discovered how to arrange stellar pop songs.
By giving in to the expressiveness of a larger, cleaner sound, Beach House has gained so much in immediacy and accessibility without sacrificing their simplicity. "Silver Soul" sounds like a nocturnal bio-luminescent mash-up of Mazzy Star slide guitar and the Beach Boys' choral harmonies. Woozy pitch-shifted guitars and rippling keys wend a rapid, crystalline melody on "Norway." The ballad "Real Love" comes off like an aborted pocket symphony, both vocals and piano boom in the foreground, while a muted tapping of drums and a sustained string note waits in the fringes never to launch into full bloom.
Imbuing her lyrics with astounding gravity, Legrand's voice is the duo's anchor, sounding plaintive, somnambulant, but always strong, melodic and engaging.
Teen Dream is Beach House's most perfect statement yet. It's guaranteed to top year-end lists, and, in the interim, become the soundtrack to many memory-making spring and summer nights.
Thursday, April 1, at the Pike Room, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-858-9333. With Bachelorette.
Aaron Shaul writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.