WPGM Recommends: Beach House – B-Sides And Rarities (Album Review)

beach house
Since the release of their 2006 self-titled debut album, Baltimore Dream-pop duo Beach House have managed to churn out six heart wrenching albums in 9 years whilst somehow maintaining that much sought after sense of originality and honesty which characterised their first releases.

The band has been a consistently reliable source of moody, analogue-tinged indie-pop for over 10 years. That’s a hell of a long time as far as the musical clock is concerned. So in a bid to mark the occasion, Beach House have released a collection of album off-cuts and unused recordings spanning that entire decade’s worth of sonic moulding.

Vocalist and organist, Victoria Lagrand and guitarist and keyboardist, Alex Scally were introduced to each other after meeting in Baltimore’s indie Rock scene in 2004. Legrand was searching for a new bassist for her ‘dysfunctional’ band. Scally was poached and subsequently rescued Legrand from the group for a side-project which later became the Beach House we know today.

The duo’s sound centres on Legrand’s powerfully dexterous vocals supported by the warm textures of organs, analogue synth sounds and glistening Shoegaze guitar. The dedicated cultivation of this sound lead to the band emerging fully formed in 2006, and whilst it has been developed over the years, it has never changed beyond recognition.

For this reason, B-Sides And Rarities may be seen as an album of dual purposes. It is at once a record which catalogues the band’s progression and the subtle refinement of its sound, as well as a stand-alone Beach House album in its own right.

The record is made up of previously unheard material such as the opening track “Chariot”, which was salvaged from the Depression Cherry/Thank Your Lucky Stars sessions. The track holds within it a powerful sense of 80’s electro nostalgia. However, with acoustic drums in the mix, the rich chorus fuelled organ line and Joni Mitchell style vocals take on a beautifully tender and forlorn tone.

Baseball Diamond”, a track formed from those same sessions, is an example of the timeless quality of Beach House’s music. It could sit as easily into a record of newly written material, as it does in B-Sides And Rarities.

It is a track characterised by Lagrand’s Nico-esque vocal lines, pushed through a filter and seamlessly meandering. Underneath, a drum machine pushes the beat on as warbling analogue string sounds ebb from Scally’s keyboard. Mixed together, the track becomes both ageless and ancient simultaneously.

There are however some tracks on the record hard-line devotees to Beach House will recognise. The compilation excavates two hidden tracks: “Rain In Number” and “Wherever You Go”.

Whilst the former has evidently been re-mixed for the purpose of B-sides And Rarities, the latter, rather unfortunately can be heard with the exact same arrangement and mix as it has on Bloom, the record on which it was hidden. Nevertheless the track, with its summery sliding guitars and a beat spattered with a hip-hop edge, it is still a credit to the compilation as a whole.

B-sides And Rarities is a difficult album to sum up. That might be because it is less of an album and more of a documentation of Beach House’s incredibly fruitful and prolific life-span. Whilst it is pretty much impossible to work out which tracks come from which album, or indeed which decade; once the album began to wash out of my speakers, I found that it didn’t really matter.

Like the sunset shades of lavender and rose Beach House’s music evoke, the subtle shift in sonic colour from one album to the next simply enriches those song’s released both before and after it. I feel confident in saying that Beach House will continue to supply us with their blend of mellow Dream-pop for some time to come.

Word by Sam Kemp

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