Beach House's Sand Doom

The duo's latest is a lesson in mixed messages.

Beach House's Teen Dream is a sentimental, woozy record bolstered by swooning guitars, sighing harmonies, and stories of sex and heartache. It's an intimate collection of pop songs, sung by an attractive 20-something who claims to have no time for such things.

"I have very little personal life at this point," says vocalist Victoria Legrand in a recent phone call from her hometown of Baltimore. "I work constantly on art and music and Beach House. I don't really have room right now for pontificating on why I'm not romantically engaged with anyone."

Not even the man she's making those provocative melodies with.

"Alex and I have a very intense musical partnership," she says. "We spend a lot of time together. It's a very unusual thing we have. We're meant to create things together."

If the duo's relationship in real life is not what it appears to be on the records they write together, the message behind their songs can be equally deceiving. Teen Dream, the band's Sub Pop debut, is the more pop-minded, lighter sister to the band's previous release, 2008's dark and fuzzy Devotion. Beach House's hazy slide guitars, humming synthesizers, gently clinking tambourines and drums, and Legrand's smoky, throaty vocals—the likes of which we haven't heard since Nico—are undeniably enchanting and fairly swollen with passion. But if you feel like you're experiencing pretty and prefabricated love songs, the duo's tricked you again.

Physical copies of Teen Dream come packaged with a DVD of bizarre, often disturbing music videos. Clips like "Walk in the Park," in which a boy with his face covered in hair removes a sandwich from his stomach and feeds it to a group of bullies, who then projectile-vomit streams of neon-colored puke, are shocking in light of the easy, lilting quality of Beach House's songs.

"It sounds pretty," Legrand says, "but lyrically it's about 'you're left behind, it's over, it's done.' For me, that video makes sense. It's art. It's up to you to decide whether it ruins your experience or not."

Beach House's music aims for the raw and intuitive human feeling of the moment, even if listeners' interpretations vary from the duo's original intent. "When we write a song, it's because we have a melody we believe in," says Legrand. "You know that it's right instantly."

 
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