Beach House

Carpark Records, 2008

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane


Baltimore, Maryland is the 12th most dangerous city in America; also, they had a real serious syphilis problem a few years back. Just when you’re convinced that Baltimore is really just the red-headed stepchild of Philadelphia, which is really just the red-headed stepchild of New York City, a charming Baltimorean indie duo called Beach House quietly delivers one of the most deliciously mysterious records of the year. This is more good news for a city that appears to be in the early stages of a cultural and artistic boom. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Together, Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand have orchestrated a sophomore record of gorgeous and haunting proportions. Devotion is eleven tracks of the most reverb-soaked and dream-inspiring pop nuggets you’re likely to hear all year. Using only guitars, keyboards, and a silky smooth set of female pipes, Scally and Legrand have drenched their material in lush and momentous arrangements, making the record seem like it’s covered with layers and layers of meticulous orchestration played by a full symphony.

Losing oneself in the stunning arrangements makes it easy to overlook the quality of songwriting that Devotion presents to its listeners. Nevertheless, if the “orchestration” were stripped away from all of the tracks on the record, what would remain would be eleven skillfully penned pop songs – including one from indie super hero Daniel Johnson – that could hold up just as well using just solo voice and piano.

This disc makes for perfect nighttime listening. When Victoria Legrand opens that mouth of hers and lets those dusty notes fall onto the doubled vocal track that’s pushed way up high in the mix, you get the sense she’s singing only to you. If the record falls short anywhere, though, it’s in the lack of dynamic change throughout. Perhaps this is intentional so as not disrupt their attempt to surround the listener in the calm darkness. Devotion is a competent and well-executed record where Beach House has created a fantasy dream world, a world filled with subtle melody and spaciousness. It invites the listener in for late night tea and a cigarette; it’s the most hospitable album to hit the shelves in a very long time.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Kenny S. McGuane and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Carpark Records, and is used for informational purposes only.