2010 CRAM: Beach House – Teen Dream

by mikeflanagan1

Each day before the end of 2010, I will be reviewing albums that I neglected when I was busy listening to The Band all year (again). This is the diary of my struggle to form my year-end list with dozens of 2010 albums still unclicked in my iTunes library.

My skepticism of hype is as often a vice as it is a virtue. Beach House had the misfortune of popping up on the wrong Best New Music lists throughout the year, and I’ve only had a few days to pry my mind open enough to fit Teen Dream comfortably. Whether or not my reluctance was warranted, I knew myself well enough to know from the start that this album would have to live and die with its first track.

Fortunately, the duo at least smudged the “dream-pop” tag I pejoratively tied to them with Teen Dream’s incandescent opener, “Zebra”. The song is built around a chord progression too obviously poignant for anyone without the perfect balance of restraint and ingenuity to contrive. The pastel-toned guitar roves around Victoria Legrand’s attenuated voice so flowingly that the song stays firmly lodged in place with only the occasional snare hit for natural percussion.

“Zebra” raised my stubborn brow, but it became more and more apparent with each track that the first number would be the best. The album slows down gradually but surely, and it took a mentionable amount of willpower for me to listen through to the end. I will not rule out the possibility that Teen Dream‘s wispy tones and intriguing, albeit spotty, melodies will grow on me. Now that this behemoth is out of the way, I’m left with this elusive question: If an album fails to live up to its monstrous hype, can it still snag a low spot on a best-of list? Jury’s still way, way out on that.

ODDS: 45%.