Beach House

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I actually really enjoyed this show – I got to play Barenaked Ladies, pretend to decode digital messages and discovered Momus & John Henriksson – but all that’s mattered since is that I set up a competition to win Josh T. Pearson’s Last of the Country Gentlemen. The problem is, I paid for the prize, so if I really wanted people to actually enter it, and so I’ve ended up spamming my way across Twitter like a gigantic, self-obsessed Josh T. Pearson fan.


You can enter the competition until about 7pm GMT tomorrow (the 21st) by emailing the name of his old band to thefolkbloke[at], by the way.

Josh T. Pearson – O Holy Night

10. Good Shoes No Hope, No Future

If you’ve been reading here long enough, you’ll know I have a serious soft spot for Good Shoes. Morden’s finest jangly miserablists were one of my first true musical loves, so perhaps I’m being a little biased here. Then again, I think there’s a serious case to be made for this being one of the year’s most underrated releases, perhaps because reviewers couldn’t separate the band that faced them from the image of one from the indie revival circa 2006/2007. But with a more open mind applied, No Hope, No Future is quite a different beast to its predecessor. Songs like ‘Our Loving Mother In Pink Diamond’ are far more intricate and layered than previous output while their more familiar numbers (‘Times Change’ and ‘I Know’ spring to mind here) have picked up a few new tricks in a faster pace, more willing to abandon a single, controlling melody. This is the sound of a group who have matured, but were met with a press that refused to believe that they had. I’ll be keeping the faith.

Good Shoes – City By The Sea (YSI)

9. Arcade FireThe Suburbs

Feeling for Arcade Fire is now so strong, I’m starting to wonder if they’ll ever have a release that won’t be hyped to high heaven – frankly, the sheer amount of discussion about this album before it had come out (I saw in-depth discussions about the significance of the album artwork appearing the day it was revealed) could have destroyed the band if the album wasn’t quite up to scratch. Luckily for them then that they have quite as much talent as they do, eh? Any album that starts with the understated majesty of the title track and follows it seamlessly with the stomping ‘Ready To Start’ is onto a winner and even if it’s not quite the magnum opus people are claiming it is, it’s definitely further proof that the ‘Fire are one of the most exciting prospects for continued brilliance in… well, the world right now.

Arcade Fire – Rococo (YSI)

8. Laura MarlingI Speak Because I Can

I have a feeling this is what Laura Marling always wanted – Alas, I Cannot Swim might have wowed many, but I’m not sure if she was completely happy with it. This, her second album embraced a darker, wilder feeling that always inhabited her lyrics and let it loose in places, whilst utilising her considerable skills as a truly emotive soul to spin tales of real beauty (‘Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)’ really, really works in the current British climes). There’s the creeping outside influences that Johnny Flynn succumbed to somewhat in songs like ‘Alpha Shallows’, but the difference here is that they’re wrestled into shape, slotting into the songs rather than overtaking them. What shines through is how much of Ms. Marling we see here – this is less an album of music than a document of the person she was as she recorded it. She may be telling stories, but the ‘I’ of the title really is Laura.

Laura Marling – Devil’s Spoke (YSI)

7. Beach HouseTeen Dream

Teen Dream is the moment Beach House broke out of the dream and into the pop. All the hallmarks of the band are there; laconic speeds, hazy synths and circuitous guitar lines, but in amongst it all lies a new knack for a properly catchy melody. Ask anyone who’s listened to ‘Norway’ recently, it will have been stuck in their head for days. This really helps move the album along too – as songs slip into one another the thing that breaks you out of simply letting it all wash over you is the appearance of a refrain you can really grab a hold of. A consistently beautiful, engaging listen.

Beach House – Zebra (YSI)

6. Mountain ManMade The Harbor

This group of Vermont-based ladies came out of nowhere, made me shiver in delight and seem to have disappeared again just as quickly. Luckily, I don’t think I’ll get bored of listening to this before they re-emerge. A collection of sparse, harmony-laden songs (both new and covered) with never more than a guitar and vocals to their name shouldn’t be this nice to listen to, but it is and with audible recording studio silences and stifled giggles between tracks, this could almost be a single long performance, which only adds to its intimacy. Not to blow my own bugle, but I think I said it best when I wrote that “this is heart-warming and haunting in turn [and] could soundtrack a summer day or a winter’s night”. That’s Made The Harbor’s greatest trick – making such similarly executed ideas sound so wonderfully disparate.

Mountain Man – How’m I Doin’ (YSI)

Sometimes, the stereotypes that make my journalistic life so much easier just don’t apply – and especially not to Beach House. I finally managed to get my hands on Teen Dream last week, and I’m very glad I did (and quite annoyed I didn’t get around to it sooner). The thing is, in listening to the album, this band have managed to challenge so many of the assumptions I automatically make when listening to music.

For a start, I can categorically state that this album is not better live. I was underwhelmed at Glastonbury, but with a good pair of headphones and a nice walk ahead, the record is a far more powerful, emotive prospect. Secondly, when these songs slip into one another without you realising, it isn’t a fault of generic background music – this whole album is an undulating soundscape, constantly shifting and is only improved by listening without too much attention to where one track begins and the last ends. Similarly, the cold, emotionless feel of electronic music simply doesn’t apply to the more synth-led tracks on this album. There’s such a warm feeling throughout, and such an organic songcraft at work that even the electronic sections feel as though they’re acoustic. Finally, and most importantly, the fluidity of the album doesn’t result in songs you can’t remember once they’re done. Melodies resonate in your head long after they’ve finished and the chorus of ‘Norway’ is frankly too good to forget.

Of course, part of every album’s appreciation is subjective, and it might well be down to the fact that as I listened to ‘Walk In The Park’, I walked into a park and the clouds parted behind me and lit up my path. Then again, maybe music truly is transcendent – I’d like to think so.

Beach House – Walk In The Park (YSI)

Glo-Fi and Dream Pop are not two genres I knew before the end of last year, never mind the bands who operate between their murky, sleepy boundaries. When I did learn what those terms meant (sort of, they seem both interchangeable and distinct depending on where you read about them), I wasn’t particularly impressed by what I heard about them – it all sounded a little too dull, a little too artificial. But as the praises were rolled out and the end of year lists were tallied up, I thought I owed it to the music geek inside me to have a little listen. Lo and behold, I was too quick to judge yet again – the two bands I heard hyped most, and who I’d ignored most as a result, turned out to be as good as everyone had been (indirectly) telling me. Duh.

In Glo-Fi’s corner, we have Neon Indian, whose glittering synths, weighty beats and treated vocals charmed me immediately. There’s something about this mix that seems perfectly blissful whilst actually being really quite loud. For Dream Pop I refer you to Beach House, who manage a beautiful union of silky melodies and just enough oddity to make for the most intriguing of listens. I won’t pretend to know much more about each of these genres, bands or scenes beyond what I’m telling you now, but if you’ve treated them with as much suspicion as I did until recently, just give them a quick spin – you might surprise yourself.

Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms (YSI)
Beach House – Norway (YSI)