Lean Into this ‘Teen Dream’

Acne combined with braces. “Sixteen Candles” with a hint of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Awkward prom photos followed by the first slow dance. Boy band obsessions manifesting in poster covered walls. These are the teenage years.

Beach House’s third album, “Teen Dream,” is the epitome of what indie dream pop should sound like. A little bit of ‘80s influence, coated with a smoky female vocalist, and charged with a combination of sparkling guitar riffs and soulful organ resonance. Their music, which is usually dreamy and nostalgic, draws inspiration this time around from the youthful yearning for newfound love and the juvenile clinging to lost love. As Beach House front woman Victoria Legrand explains, “Teen Dream” is about “being lovelorn or lost or like Bob Dylan.”

After touring with the critically acclaimed band Grizzly Bear, Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally settled down to write songs for their new album. The influence Grizzly Bear had on the band is sprinkled throughout the album, most notably on songs like “Zebra” and “Walk in the Park.”

Borrowing Grizzly Bear’s infamous harmonious “oohs” and “ahhs,” the opening track “Zebra” is driven along with a full body guitar melody as Legrand chants, “Don’t I know you better than the rest? / All deception, all deception from you.”

On the other hand, “Walk in the Park” could easily be a song written and sung by Grizzly Bear’s front man Ed Droste. The chamber-pop track begins with nothing but a drum kit beat, but is suddenly joined by staccato-like synth chords coupled with a catchy guitar riff. Legrand’s commanding voice contrasts the vulnerable situation she sings about as she cries, “In and out of my life, you will slip from my mind.”

Smack-dab in the middle of the album is its first single “Norway,” which is reminiscent of Beach House’s older material. Depicting the vulnerable heart of an adolescent girl, the drowsy airiness of “Norway” is an intricate layering of the sounds of a psychedelic guitar, church-like organs, and breathy “ah-ah” backing vocals.

In “Used to Be,” the sense of loneliness is reverberated through disjoined beats, iterative piano chords and choppy lyrics that reflect Legrand’s pain of abandonment. However, the song suddenly takes a huge shift, transforming from an erratic tune into a lush atmospheric refrain as Legrand proclaims that love really is worth trying again. This transition is one of the highlights of the album, as the song bounces from one melody to another in a fashion that doesn’t make the song seem disjointed – rather, unique.

However, everything has its weakness, and for “Teen Dream,” it’s the penultimate track, “Real Love.” As one of the quieter songs on the album, this is the only song that falls short. Though it can be noted that Legrand’s exceptional voice is most clearly demonstrated on this track, “Real Love” fails to progress beyond the stagnant piano melody. Running at 5 minutes and 23 seconds long, I don’t have much to say about this track.

It can be argued that the driving force behind this album’s success is Legrand’s powerful voice, which is somewhere in between other cute throaty indie ladies Cat Power and Zooey Deschanel, but with a bit more flare. Perhaps the songs on the album wouldn’t have been so memorable if it wasn’t for Legrand’s distinct ethereal voice, which could easily be considered the direct foil to Ed Droste, who has been praised for his unique and haunting voice. Songs such as “Take Care” and “Better Times” showcase the raw beauty of her voice in a manner that is present throughout the album, thus, turning a good album into a great album.

As a shameless plug for Coachella, Beach House will be performing this year at the music and arts festival located in Indio, California. They will be performing among the likes of Vampire Weekend, Grizzly Bear, MGMT, the xx, Thom Yorke, Phoenix and Julian Casablancas. It will be interesting to witness whether or not their sound will transfer well in such a large space, seeing as bands such as Beach House tend to sound better in a more intimate setting.

“Teen Dream” successfully captures the delicate yet raging nature of youth in the name of love. There is still a year’s worth of music to come, but it seems that Beach House’s “Teen Dream” has a fighting chance to be one of the best albums of 2010. We’ll have to wait till the end of the year, when all indie heads start compiling the year’s top 20 albums.