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First Listen: Beach House, 'Teen Dream'

Beach House writes gauzy, dreamy songs with droning melodies, but the music is far from formless. Composing concise progressions and arrangements on which to build their sound, members Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand display an affection for intricate '60s-style songcraft and '80s-style synth-pop.

With its third full-length album, Teen Dream, the band has crafted its most immediate and rewarding record yet. Scally and Legrand have weaned themselves off the lonely minimalism of their previous records — 2006's self-titled debut and 2008's Devotion — for a more expansive sound. Where those records often felt murky, Teen Dream feels like a shift from fuzzy sepia tones to Technicolor.

Teen Dream was produced by Chris Coady, who has worked with TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Blonde Redhead, and was recorded in a converted church in upstate New York — appropriately named Dreamland.

Centered on cascading guitars, arpeggiating piano and velvety voices that ring out with crystal clarity, "Used to Be" and "10 Mile Stereo" radiate shimmering warmth. Scally's lilting slide guitar and vintage organs wrap themselves around "Norway" and "Zebra" like blankets. But, as in the best pop songwriting, the lightness in the music often hides an undercurrent of darkness and melancholy.

While Legrand's throaty voice can take Beach House's songs to an otherworldly place, her oblique lyrics point to the cycle of falling in and out of love. "Gather medicine for heartache, so we can act a fool," Legrand sings in "Silver Soul." Later, in "Walk in the Park," she laments the deteriorating memory of a relationship, singing, "In a matter of time, it would slip from my mind / In and out of my life, you would slip from my mind." But in "Take Care," Legrand confesses, "I'd take care of you if you'd ask me to," letting in a sliver of hope for something new.

Teen Dream is available to stream here in its entirety for the week leading up to its official release on Jan. 26, as part of NPR Music's Exclusive First Listen series.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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