Tag Archives: Beach House

The Year. 15-11

15. Of Montreal – False Priest [US]

People don’t want the kind of Kevin Barnes that gambols around in frilly clothes doing little falsetto squeals just for the hell of it. They want the kind of Kevin Barnes that does that to hide his crippling depression, which peeks out occasionally to remind them that this is knowing pastiche. It’s getting a lot harder to tell. So, past Skeletal Lamping’s Georgie Fruit and on to the rebuilt Barnes, we have False Priest. The key to oM and the reason post-Satanic Panic stuff is so much more engaging than the stuff before it is this (and no points for guessing): mythology. So False Priest’s highlights aren’t the Barnes-Brion high watermarks of production wizardry, which can actually get pretty cloying. They’re the bits where he pops out to say, ignoring meter, that after his uncle’s suicide, everyone was looking at him to succeed him as the family’s golden myth, but that all of his identity mutations were dosed in books. Or Janelle Monae cutting across his half-spoken synth funk story about an ex-girlfriend throwing his fish out the window to say that she can’t peel the flowers of the psychic disturbance. If you’re not into of Montreal, this album is probably as much use as an intro as a World of Warcraft expansion. But so what.
Four part interview I did and a Pitchfork.tv session.

Of Montreal feat. Janelle Monáe – Our Riotous Defects

14. Beach House – Teen Dream [US]

Forget who Victoria Legrand is. Okay. Now, imagine who someone called Victoria Legrand is. If the word ‘regal’ doesn’t leap into your mind, you’re probably dangerously republican. Because, despite the record-breaking number of times the word lush is used in connection with Beach House, it’s her that makes this any different from twenty other bands with vintage electric organs they got off eBay. These are, after all, songs built mostly off sedentary, unchanging drum machine beats. The organ chords are slathered on. They’re pillowy as all hell and for the first time, with Teen Dream, the vaseline’s off the lens. But what makes this the thing that demands to be put on in empty afternoons is that regal voice, more than just some slacker dude mumbling obscure lyrics (not that there isn’t merit in that) is Victoria Legrand. Name like a Disney character, she’s offering to take care of you, that she doesn’t want to know, that Norway is important for some reason. That’s a powerful thing.
Lovely cloudy Pitchfork.tv session, and interview, from here.

Beach House – Take Care

13. Future Islands – In Evening Air [US]

For a long time I thought the guy from Future Islands was genuinely some sort of older man. People described him as ‘a fat, bald guy’ and I presumed from that that the other two had decided to ask an eccentric guy from their community theatre class to try singing with them. Seriously, that specific. I listened to this album for months, talked about them with Double Dagger and even decided to go see them without fully realising that this wasn’t the case. Then I saw them, and he’s fat, old and bald for the indie-sphere, but not in the grand scheme. Still, that’s how I experienced In Evening Air, and it influenced it in a much more heavily surreal direction. This amateur actor, telling first person kitchen sink, almost soap-level stories of love with full on growls of emotion, sonic shirt-rending. Things like Long Flight, long and repetitive, breaking into screams and back down again, took on a bizarre theatricality, one that’s there no matter how you hear it, but somehow different. The steel drum riff in Tin Man, combined with this incredibly plaintive Orson Welles voice, is a force of nature. The album’s still great, re-listening, but you could try imagining what I imagined too if you want.
Future Islands at the eventual haj location, Whartscape, and from the Dublin gig.

Future Islands – Tin Man

12. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma [US]

Post-Dilla is a term I first head from Meljoann, as part of a string of genres I’d never heard of – aquacrunk, skweeee, etc – in an interview for Totally Dublin. In retrospect, though, it makes all kinds of sense for FlyLo. Dragged out drum hits, sad soul hewn out of the simplest bites of repeating vinyl wobble, an offer to side-nod that’s impossible to refuse. A lot of the critical writing on Cosmogramma decided to focus on the fact that it moved Flying Lotus past the term post-Dilla just by virtue of being really good at what it does, but I think that maybe misses a point. It is really good, and it’s different, but it is J Dilla on Saturn. There’s no shame in that. Twanging guru-searcher string hits on Computer Face interact with deteriorated conscious rap-esque soul piano on Arkestry and Tarantino soundtrack bigness on Satelllliiiiiteee, but it’s all tied together by that slovenly attitude to actually hitting the snare. Cosmogramma is its own mood.
Sputnikmusic review and some of the BBC session with a live band.

Flying Lotus – Computer Face

11. Porn On Vinyl – Old Folks’ Home

Having a recording that sounds a little like all of your too-many-kids jumping the back of your hatchback has a tendency to create its own fullness, its own atmosphere. There’s not much on Old Folks’ Home. The light harmonies or solo voice over struck guitar strings sit in, like an instrument, providing all the melodies, popping out on the first few listens only for those lines that read like slogans – “all things must die and all fires burn out” or “if we never die, our kids will never cry”. Weird chords keep it from ever being hokey, and the tape-clicks and imperfections keep your head in the game. There are obvious comparisons. Mountain Goats, Microphones, Neutral Milk Hotel. But to me it’s more like the first Sunset Rubdown or Why? albums, a home-written, home-recorded, home-layered, home-looking set of songs about home emotions, told through stories. That’s how to relate to them, and that’s why they’re so beautiful.
Drop-D review calling it “easily the best budget home recording I’ve ever heard” and the Lo-Fi Friday post from here with The Bonfire and Her Husband.

Porn On Vinyl – Song For A Dead Poet


Wilderness for miles, eyes so mild and wise

What it would have looked like from the back, if I had been inside the perimeter. via BKvegan

The last time I saw Beach House, I was sitting on mulch in the Body and Soul arena at Electric Picnic, not really keeping it together and unable to understand why it was taking them so long to set up. Detective work later revealed that answer. My memories of that, if I can keep them, will stay with me forever though. It looks kind of like a cross between Super 8 footage and an actual dream, and it sounds like Beach House right before Devotion came out. I’ve never seen them in ordinary circumstances.

And maybe I never will. Rather than spending money I need to spend on 99c pizza slices and cans of Mac and Cheese on actually gaining entry to the Prospect Park Bandshell, it made sense to just find a good piece of grass outside and watch from afar. So that was it. Late as usual, I caught about five songs of Beach House’s support set, possibly all from Teen Dream if memory serves. Take Care billowing out through Prospect Park dusk. Not bad, but honestly, actually seeing Beach House play might have to go a bit higher on the life priority list than it is currently. They are as tight as a politically incorrect joke, and there’s every reason to believe genuine visual contact with Victoria Legrande would help in the communication of her general sultry buzz.

Fun as that was, I had to sit through the National after that. Barring Bruce Springsteen and maybe Tom Waits, there is no music on the planet more people have tried to talk me into saying I like. I think they’re dull, the emotion is forced and often pretty trite, and they’re saved from being out and out AOR by having a badass drummer. Fake Empire, made as usual by the counterintuitive and admittedly pretty deadly drumming, was a reasonably poignant encore, I’ll admit. That far but no further.


TDOM Day 26: A Song That You Can Play On An Instrument

Beach House – Zebra

A couple of weeks ago my dad discovered how to use YouTube to the extent that he found a Dublin Duck Dispensary live video. He was not impressed. He said it sounded like “noise, with a keyboard player who had no idea how to play the keyboard.” I was the keyboard player, and he obviously knew this well from the video, being my father. I took solace in the fact that he was never going to be the target audience. But is my heart not badly shaken?

Like Ian MacKaye in the sole copy of Punk Planet I ever bought, I don’t play that much unless I’m in a band at a given time, and I almost never actually sit down to try and learn stuff, but in the wake of the Teen Dream off-to-the-races-in-AOTY-2010 hype cycle I learned to play Zebra, because it’s a nice song and easy enough to play. If you’ve been to my flat in the last 3 months I’ve probably been picking this while you were talking about some shite.

Transcript: Beach House

This interview is with Victoria Legrande from Beach House, and it was done in December for the January Totally Dublin which is still circulating around the place if you’re in Dublin and haven’t read it. I liked this one, except she didn’t like being called fuzzy, and being from Baltimore doesn’t automatically make a person a Wire fan.

I wanted to ask you how you feel about the reaction to your album leaking.

I feel positive about the album leaking, because it’s ultimately a really flattering thing when you feel like people are excited to hear your record, and they can’t wait till it comes out. That’s ultimately a really positive thing. It also generated a lot of excitement that otherwise wouldn’t be happening. So I think it’s ultimately a positive thing.

There’s almost an impression that you’re the band for 2010.

Really? That’s kind of intense. I think there’s so many bands, that’s kind of a grandiose statement. I hope that’s not the case, I hope we’re not the band for 2010. I just hope we have a really good year. We’re really excited about touring, we can’t wait to make these songs come to life. Thanks for the compliment.

What’s your impression of the differences between Teen Dream and Devotion?

One of the differences, I feel, is that we had a lot more time to work on Teen Dream. Devotion is a record we were writing on and off through periods of touring, so it was kind of a fragmented process, and then the recording process took about three weeks. It was a lot shorter. We’re almost lucky that that record happened because of how much time management was going on, whereas with Teen Dream, we toured a tonne, and then we returned last winter and we basically had nothing to do but completely be dedicated to the songs that we had stored up while touring. We had a month for the actual recording process, and we also had a bit more money to spend on taking our time. I think that also allowed us to be able to more fully realise the record, to really get what we envisioned out of it. So I think time has a lot to do with it.

I read in an old interview on an Irish blog [Musical Rooms] that your four track was the most important piece of equipment you had. Does that still hold true?

The four track is still important, and it’s still essentially the most important because it’s where we started. There’s always four track on our record. It’s a very important ingredient, it’s the spine, where things are grounded. But with Teen Dream, it’s not a lo-fi record like the first record which was foggy and really hazy. This is like a hi-fi record, there’s a lot more clarity. But the four track is still the heart of the band, definitely. One of the many, there are a few, our organs, the instruments we love. Beach House couldn’t be Beach House without these elements, so, one of the many hearts. We’re never gonna ditch things that have worked for us, but we’re always gonna try and challenge ourselves to see what we can make from what we’ve always used. My white keyboard that I had on the first record is still used on Teen Dream. We try and challenge ourselves.

In another old interview you said that you were tired of being called languid, and that when you made a new record there’d be new adjectives. What are the adjectives you’re expecting to hear for the next year, then?

New adjectives. Sexual. Obsessive, rhythmic. I think that there are a lot more dynamics to this record, and I think that the record has a lot of different motions to it. There are a lot of fluid elements to it that aren’t fluid the way Devotion was, where things are kind of all the same level, they don’t ever go very high or very low. And I feel like this record will give new adjectives other than languid and things like that because it is different. It’s got more life in it, and I think that’s a result of how much energy we put in. Creating a volcano basically, a nine-month long volcano. Words like languid, we’ve heard those before. But you know, we have a DVD with the record that I think is as important as the album, it’s not a bonus thing. There are ten different artists that we picked, we gave them each a song and what we got back is a curation of videos that are very exciting. They’re all different and they all give a completely new vision to go with our music. That’s also gonna really help contribute to people experiencing the record and coming up with new ways to talk about it. So, like I said, sexual, dark, obsessive. People are gonna have a lot of new words to think about.

Was that an intentional thing, to change perceptions?

The intent is not, you know, ‘let’s change how people think of Beach House’. It’s more, ‘let’s make this exciting, let’s open it up, let’s see what more we can bring to our world’. It’s not about changing people, it’s about giving something more to people, giving them another way of experiencing the record. So I think we’re opening it up, we’re growing. It’s not necessarily about trying to convince people. We’re not trying to not be the dream-pop thing, the dream word is something that’s always going to be part of our music, and it’s not something that we’re avoiding, we’re just trying to give new energy to people.

Do you see Beach House as part of a larger movement toward nostalgia or some kind of fuzzy memory in music at the moment? That would maybe include yourselves, The Antlers, Grizzly Bear and others.

I think that all music is a memory trigger, except for maybe cash money rap. We all share that ability to make music that makes people feel… things… but I don’t feel fuzzy at all. I don’t think this record is a fuzzy record. I think it’s very dynamic and very intense, and it’s not just about nostalgia. And the title is not an ode to being a teen, or the past. It’s not a longing for the past. It’s like an open, abstract invitation to energy… it’s just open. They’re words that are very classic-seeming and that fit really well with the record. In that sense, I don’t feel connected to fuzzy memory. I feel connected to a much broader spectrum of feeling. I think it’s got every feeling in it. That’s why I’m so harping on the fuzzy memory thing, because I think it’s more than that.

Do you have any memories of playing Electric Picnic this summer?

Good God. Do I have memories of Electric Picnic? We had a great show, I remember that. But I remember not playing until like 3.30 in the morning and then leaving at 8 in the morning the next day. It was a really intense experience. I still don’t believe that it really happened.

It felt really dream-like, in that little outdoor amphitheatre, and you didn’t go on until so late…

Maybe I shouldn’t reveal the unglamorous details of music life, but they didn’t have the basic ingredient, which is a converter. So we couldn’t plug anything in. We had everything set up, but the festival didn’t have a convertor for us, so they had to find someone from all the way across the land, basically, to get one. It was kind of a nail-biting experience, whether we were actually going to get to play. So that was exciting. But it happened. Kind of like playing Russian roulette or something.

Okay, compulsory Baltimore question. Do you have a favourite Wire character?

I have only seen a handful of episodes of the Wire, actually, but I can tell you my favourite character is that murderous girl, what’s her name? Snoop?

The Year. 4. Humming tomorrow’s nursery rhyme.

4. Beach House – Devotion
Bella Union

How important is style to music? I don’t mean style in the sense of the ‘skinny jeans and tight t-shirts’ that the bouncers of certain London “indie-rock” club nights require. I mean the layers, the arrangements, the how of the music. Its realisation. The fact that there is a piano playing that melody instead of a flute. The fact that that word is slurred, rather than sounded properly.

It’s probably a society-wide assumption that style is something that goes on top of music, especially in the essentially post-punk landscape of indie music. I first came across that idea reading about poetry and the debates various crusty Oxbridge types had about the concrete universals and intrinsic beauty or values, below rhyme and rhythm, below the mere words.

I thought it was missing the point then, and I think it’s missing the point now, in the context of music. There’s no such thing as style in that sense. It’s not a paint that you put over some song that you’ve plucked from the ether, or your arse, depending on how flighty your aspirations. The song is its style, nothing more.

And it’s from this theoretical standpoint (very sorry about all that, casual observer) that I oppose the criticism that Beach House’s songs are boring, samey plods with an interminably sickly layer of style-paint coating them. These songs are made up of their lush organ sounds, reverb-soaked guitar lines and misted spider-web shakers. In the very same way that Times New Viking aren’t a noise band with pop songs underneath, but a band with great noisy pop songs, Beach House aren’t playing regular songs and then making them pristine and pretty with layers. It’s a house, if you’ll excuse the pun, built from the ground up. An impressionist faces a blank canvas and ends up with a masterpiece. He doesn’t just colour in between the lines.

It’s another world. There’s a truth somewhere in those low organ chords that seem like they came from nowhere and have nowhere to go. Victoria Legrand’s voice, reminiscent of Nico, gives her romantic evocations a sense of nobility that few peers manage. The album feels like a dream, a Xanadu trip, even though it’s largely about domestic love. There’s also something to be said for its timelessness. It could pass as a 60s album if it tried, but it doesn’t sound derivative or retro. That’s a surefire sign, I think, that it will last.