Beach House: Teen Dream, in "Nothing Not New"

Welcome to "Nothing Not New," a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

Artist: Beach House
Title: Teen Dream
Release date: January 26, 2010
Label: Sub Pop

You know you've let yourself get of touch with things when you put into your CD player a new Sub Pop release -- in this case, the new release by Beach House -- and out of your speakers comes some mellifluous, honey-dripped sounds that instantly transplant you to a summery place in your head. Now, I know (though, it's hard to believe) it's been 22 years since the Seattle label put out the "Touch Me I'm Sick" single and I figured Sub Pop had moved away from its punk and grunge roots, but . . . Beach House? This is what the venerable label that was so important to me in my teens and early 20s is doing now?

It's not that Beach House isn't terrible, but it sure doesn't rock, not by any definition of the word "rock." Not only does it not rock, it doesn't do much of anything, really. The pretty, laid-back sounds just sort of laze about about in your brain without really latching onto anything. The many, many cymbal washes on Teen Dream evoke the crashing of waves. And, overall, the songs here seem to float around in the surf -- washing in, washing out with the tide.

Just as a wall of sound of overdriven guitars and drums can grow tedious to the listener, so can a lack of dynamics on the other end of the musical spectrum. The songs on Teen Dream are not bad, but they quickly become nearly undistinguishable from each other. To hear one of these songs in a mix or in a shuffle would work for me. Listening to the album's 10 songs over the course of its 49-minute duration is really a drag. To me, the singer's voice is part of the problem here. It's pretty in sort of a melancholy, ghostly sense, but a lack of expressiveness takes away from the appeal of her voice.

Disagree with me about this buzz band? Let me know why in the comments section below.

Best song: "Better Times"
Rotation: Medium. In small doses, Beach House songs can be highly listenable.
I'd rather listen to: The Duchess and the Duke

Grade: C

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