That difficulty question must be asked again. Beach House’s debut record was strung out and a tiny bit mucky, despite Victoria Legrand’s beautifully breathy vocals. This gave it a vague weirded quality which – if ‘dream pop’ might be characters as toeing a plangent, background-listening line – made it feel smart and a little challenging. On Teen Dream, their third record, all these gaps are filled in – often rather gorgeously, but filled in nevertheless. It’s like Zero 7 getting together with Fleet Foxes and asking Natasha Khan around for herbal teas.
Which means that Teen Dream is an easy listen, to an extent. You could happily drive – carefully – to this; you could relax to it, do some work to it, and it wouldn’t demand too much of you. The regular beat of an organ on ‘Walk In The Park’, or the careful piano figure on ‘Real Love’ are there as much to regulate as excite. Which is a shame, given the off-kilter thought put to the atmospherics on Beach House’s previous records. But hold that sneer, hipster – do you hear that skip on ‘Lover of Mine’, or those arctic twangings on ‘Norway’? How can you say no to Alex Scally’s sorrowful yelps of on ‘Take Care’? That’s right. You can’t.
Another of the record’s songs, ’10 Miles of Stereo’, might be the fastest tempo to which this duo have ever stretched – it even has synth strings on it. So, sure, 80s electro is a reference point; and, yes, everyone’s doing Talk Talk to death right now. But one of the reasons this album is ‘easy’ is because it is so expert: listen more closely and themes emerge, or Legrand’s vocals prove as subtle as before on tracks like ‘Used To Be’. Opener ‘Zebra’ is in technicolour, yes, but vibrancy is an exciting prospect for a band so intent on writing songs so languid. All of which is to say that I quite like Teen Dream – it has some beautiful tunes. Beach House might not be leavening their dreamery with difficulty any longer – but they are enlivening it with ever more confident songcraft.