Being a teenager feels like a perpetual earthquake. Everything is shifting and senses are heightened. Emotions are on fire and passion runs high. Baltimore-based dream-pop duo Beach House, with the help of producer/engineer Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, and Blonde Redhead), have captured that adolescent disorder on their third full-length release.
Recorded in a converted church appropriately called Dreamland in upstate New York, Teen Dream is a departure from the band's previous work. On first listen, the album's ten tracks might sound familiar. The blood that pumps through them is the same blood that gave life to Beach House's previous two albums (2006's self-titled debut and 2008's Devotion). But don't be fooled: Teen Dream is no carbon copy. It's much more than that.
The band uses the same tools they always have, a combination of mournful organ tones, reverb-heavy slide guitar, and Victoria Legrand's haunting vocals, but this time around, they've shuffled these base elements to expand and deepen their sound. If their first two albums are lovely dreams you don't wish to wake from, Teen Dream is more like the space between sleep and waking, the brief moments that shield the lush paradise of dreams from the routine of forgetting them.
"Zebra" starts things off on the right foot with a simple guitar riff and soothing harmonies reminiscent of Grizzly Bear. Halfway through the song, things really take off with an escalation of layered vocals, crashing cymbals, and full-bodied guitar.
The temperature continues to rise with the sultry "Silver Soul," in which Victoria Legrand breathily sings "The bodies lying in the sand, they're moving in the dark" before repeating "It is happening again" to climax. Teen Dream's nostalgic lead single "Norway" maintains the theatrics with an upbeat girl-group vibe and songs like "Better Times" and "10 Mile Stereo" keep things interesting with constantly changing tempos and non-stop escalation. Even the songs that aren't brimming with vim manage to wow. "Real Love," easily the most intimate track on the album, is a stripped-down ballad with Legrand and her piano front and center. Her ghostlike voice echoes darkly, yet playfully: "There's someone in that room that frightens you when they go: Boo! Boo! Boo!"
"Walk in the Park," one of the most memorable songs from the album, peaks with Legrand declaring: "More, you want more!" And she's right, of course. This album leaves its listeners breathless, wanting, needing, and aching for something just out of reach. Just like when we were teenagers listening to music in our bedrooms.