Lower Dens – I Get Nervous
…finally, down near the Brighton seafront, and there I was, the lone coloured fellow in a crowd of pale, proudly unwashed hipsters. Despite the melanin gap, however, the outsider and the home crowd were waiting for the same thing: Beach House. The evening’s opening acts had got things going quite nicely. The combination of indoor heating and Lower Dens’ guitars provided much-needed warmth, on the first frosty day of this capricious British winter. The nameless Christian folk singer who preceded the Dens was less welcome, but he seemed to have a good time regardless. Back to Lower Dens, though – they’re good. I hadn’t heard of them before that night. Solid rhythm section, wonderfully-coordinated guitar and bass combos, and sparse, well-timed lyrics that serve more as another instrument than as separate from melody. All the acts that night came from Baltimore, MD, where this bit of magic is set. It must be something in the water. Or the crime.
Beach House – Zebra
The wait for Beach House was long. “It’s a friggin’ duo, how long could they take to get stoned and tune their instruments?” I muttered inaudibly to an under-aged stranger. My anticipation reached its peak, then nosedived into a pit of frustration, as I followed up my third Guinness with a tweet, snidely comparing Lower Dens to “a pauper’s Sonic Youth.” They deserve better than that. The lanky 40-something Yorkshireman spilled his drinkie. A typically obnoxious couple barged their way nearer to the front, earning the derision of everyone, and the retaliation of nobody. Another advantage of having a girlfriend, I thought. Another reason why escorts are so expensive (or so I’ve read).
And then they came on.
My pre-Teen Dream favourite, “Gila,” was first on the set list. The performance itself was immaculate, with the intimate Concorde2 venue lending prime acoustics to the airy gorgeousness issuing forth from our star duo.
Victoria Legrand – or to give her full name, French-Born Victoria Legrand – clearly has some prescient parents. She is indeed a great triumph. If you were to take her out, you wouldn’t order her food for her, would you? She knows what she wants. Her voice can get it, don’t you worry none. I’ve seen some sexy singing front-women in my time: Anaïs Mitchell, Alexis Krauss (of Sleigh Bells), Erika Forster (Au Revoir Simone… she blew me a kiss once!), Annie Clark (St. Vincent)… when she’s on that stage, Victoria beats them all. By a lot. When she’s not playing the organ, she moves her hands and body around a lot during the songs. It’s not really dancing, and it’s not got any functional purpose. But if you were performing those songs, you would move in that same way. The only thing, of course, is that it wouldn’t be sexy when you do it. That’s just how it goes.
Alex Scally’s backing vocals and guitar/keyboard work deserve great praise too, especially on the Teen Dream songs, which came across more rounded and complete even than they did on the album. In the best sense, Beach House’s songs make you want to sing along, even when you don’t know the words.
From the first wavering chords of “Gila” to the end of the encore’s “Take Care”, the risible crowd had faded into background nothingness, and it was Victoria, singing to me alone, my dream of the night before coming true. Well, apart from the chalet and the jacuzzi. Good things come to those who wait.
Beach House – I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun
Oh yeah, they also recorded a Christmas song.
I managed to write about Beach House without once mentioning the phrase ‘dream pop.’ It is actually possible, Pitchfork.
[Buy Teen Dream if you want to experience some sweet melodies this Christmas. Lower Dens’ Twin-Hand Movement is an underrated gem.]