I was sitting around with a fellow record collector recently, drinking beers and listening to him bemoan the current state of what we now know as indie-rock. "When's the next great band going to get here?" he asked, as if waiting for the Mother Ship to arrive and pluck him of this goo-stained planet we've created for our kids. Indeed, it has been a while since a band or solo artist has come around, awakening our collective conscience and allowed us, the music-listening-to-ing audience, to rally around them adoringly.
On the bike ride home I started milling it over. It's been years since Arcade Fire or The Shins released those albums we all loved, and there will never be another singer like Elliott Smith (R.I.P.) ever again. Animal Collective may be gathering fawning praise from NPR, Spin and Pitchforkmedia.com's Best-Of 2009 lists, but to be honest, this Brooklyn band is not all that accessible to untrained ears. Even if the next great messianic band were to come around, would we even hear them above the din of countless other DIY bands clogging the aural artery expressway that links the Internet to directly our brains/smartphones?
When I got home, there was an email pertinent to this discussion waiting for me in my inbox: someone set me the latest MP3 from the Baltimore-based band, Beach House. I opened their new song "Norway" up in iTunes, and was promptly giddy-slapped. This is was exactly what I had been waiting for; a song that is effortless, mesmerizing and unexpected. Upon the 10th or 11th replay of "Norway," I began to wonder, "Could these guys be that next great band we've been clamoring for?"
I have been aware of Beach House for sometime now. Their second album, Devotion (Carpark Records), easily made my "Top 10 Records of 2008" list. This Charm City duo, consisting of Victoria Legrande and Alex Scally, gets compared to Mazzy Star a lot by tin-eared, lazy reviewers who don't seem to know shit about shit. Beach House are really more akin to a slow burn soundtrack for Caucasian voodoo rituals, draped in thrift store lace and spent candle wax (if I were absolutely forced to compare Beach House to anyone, it would be A.C. Marias. For you review-by-numbers hacks: Stevie Nicks fronting The Cocteau Twins.) For an album that unfolded in glorious slow motion, Devotion was in constant rotation at my house and never wore-out its welcome (4-sided vinyl, and all).
On January 26th of this year Beach House will be releasing their third record, Teen Dream, on Sub Pop Records. From all the indications of the new single, Beach House seems set to expand their already incredible sound by filling-in those previously dark and drafty corners with splendid vibrancy by the dream-load. If "Norway" is any indication of what's to come, the bold palette Beach House is working from now practically radiates color, texture and Keebler elfin-like magic.
"Norway" starts off with a keyboard tone from a previous song that retreats quickly, as ominous tribal drumming encircles. Soon Legrand's angelic vocals and Scally's shimmering guitar glide in and sweep us up and away, into some heavenly region of sub-consciousness. This is the Beach House you remember, only they've just returned from somewhere far off, much wiser, more mature and far more versed than you remember them being. The features are the same, but elongated and refined now; not "grown up" as much as "grown out."
Beach House "Norway"
I want Beach House to be big. I want this band to be selling-out venues like the Fox Theater and The Crystal Ballroom. I want one of their songs on TV, selling iPods or hybrid cars. I want to hear Sam Worthington, while hosting Saturday Night Live, say, "Ladies and Gentlemen; Beach House." I want some record-collecting elitist asshole in Williamsburg declaring that they liked Beach House first, back before "...all these trendy motherfuckers started liking 'em." I want a corned beef and coleslaw sandwich!
Above all, however, I want Beach House to earn a comfortable living writing and playing these incredible songs of theirs. I want Beach House to be big, on their own terms and well within their comfort levels. I want only good things for this band; they've earned it.
Call this a big, bold, reckless prediction, but I have a feeling 2010 will be Beach House's year.