In press photos, Beach House's wide-eyed singer and organist, Victoria Legrand, gives off the vibe that her amazing looks and talent are somehow completely unintentional—accidental, even. Oops! I'm terrific? Why didn't you tell me? There have been a lot of words written about Beach House, the slippery-smooth boy-girl duo from Baltimore—this is a band that inspires verbiage, and it could be a result of their image. Guitarist Alex Scally hides his earnest, attractive young face behind wild waves of curly black hair—throw in some vintage clothing and a desolate East Coast beach on a cool and cloudy day, and an article about image practically writes itself.
Or the mass of words written about them could be the result of their uniquely simple yet haunting sound. For something so stripped down, their music is awfully hard to interpret, and awfully sneaky about changing its colors mid-stride. There is no place on any song not filled with melodic, sometimes eerie noise. It's powerful, but not in a "We will, we will, rock you," kind of way. Its power is elegant and simple, like a haiku:
Beach House is where The
Beach Boys go to cry, one red
leaf falls in autumn
Maybe that's why Beach House is always tagged as a band that is perfect for fall. This makes sense; fall is sad. The days get shorter, darker. Stuff dies. But this tag fails to take into account both the magic of a season like summer, and the full spectrum of emotions present in the Beach House record. The music is sad. Yes. And it's dark. But it's also euphoric, manic, and even cutesy in places. Sometimes it makes me want a snow-cone. Frankly, pigeonholing it as a fall album is offensive. This is music for all seasons—especially summer.
Saltwater begins with a steady drum-machine-sounding beat (even though the band's MySpace page asserts that "there are no drum machines in Beach House"). The first lyrics on the entire album—"Love you all the time"—are so summer. Legrand, who's often compared to Nico, sets the vocal tone for the album with a husky, ethereal moan.
The sound of running water—a motif throughout the album—opens "Tokyo Witch." Here, Legrand's voice maintains its Nico-ness, but sometimes moves into a sort of controlled girlish innocence. Less innocently, the album's pivotal track, "Master of None," suggests itself as the perfect song for prolonged intercourse in a hammock (hint: put it on repeat). Legrand's vocals are suddenly outwardly feminine and demanding, laid over a rhythm that grinds into a filthy little beat.
By "Auburn and Ivory," the slow moan of the signature Beach House organ returns, moving sharply into a bar or two of harpsichord here, eerie slide guitar there, and then, just as sharply, into a rushing wave of sound. The music is simultaneously slow and fast, coherent and indecipherable. Beats are sometimes missed. It's sloppy on purpose. The slide guitar snakes in and out like a stream, and the organ twitters like the million little leaves on a giant tree. To me, that sounds a lot like summer.