A strong start. That's all we're really looking for in a band, right? A solid, strong start. This time on the TMS Listening Party we will be sharing some of our all-tim favorite debut albums. This list runs the gambit, but is in no means meant to be a definitive list. Let us know what we missed. Seriously. We want to know. -DW
Beach House is one of those bands that don’t just create a feeling or a mood; they create a spiritual experience. For those of you who have followed their career, I’m sure you’re hit with all the feels the first time you heard “Gila,” “Silver Soul,” or “Irene.” And don’t get me wrong; Beach House is one of those bands that have consistently and steadily created brilliance after brilliance with each of their albums. In fact, its been 2+ years since Bloom and I’m getting’ antsy for another one, if you catch my drift. Yet, as amazing, and progressive, and truly poignant as their second, third, and fourth albums are, there is nothing like Beach House, their debut album, to kick your heartstrings in the face.
Beach House, the band’s self-titled debut, was released in 2006, two years after the musical partnership of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. They’re from Baltimore, although Victoria has a deep French heritage, and their sound is an accumulation of dreamy guitars, low-fi drum machine beats, and strong, yet delicate synthesizers. Beach House is what Julee Cruise was trying to do on Twin Peaks and what Lana Del Rey is still trying to obtain. There is a simplicity in the presentation, but a deep complicated soul inside their songs that will leave you feeling more spiritually after listening to the album then any Sunday morning spent at church.
This album is the kind of album that exudes a familiarity even if it’s only your first time hearing it. Beach House, as a band, somehow managed to bottle up adolescence, first love, heartbreak, and a longing for most home into one collective piece of work. This bottled mixture of reality can be seen on their other albums, but it’s not the same. I suppose it’s the absence of over producing on their debut album that makes it appear as something more real, more tangible. This album also demonstrates that a little imperfections and low-fidelity can create exactly what the band was going for and exactly what their fans desire: sincerity and honesty.
It all starts with “Love you all the time, even though you’re not mine.” Having discovered Beach House during the fall of one of the loneliest times in my life, hearing “Saltwater” for the first time was one of those moments where you truly believe that a song was written for you. I drove in solitude back and forth to school as the sun was either rising or setting and I knew I had found that the band that was going to make everything okay. The drum machine fades in, followed by the synth and guitar, and I entered a world where not only is okay to be sad and emotional, but its celebrated and admired.
“Tokyo Witch” is next, which takes the listener from the Far East to the Great White North in under four minutes. This is one of their more obscure songs, but like most of their music, it’s the end that pulls you back in with lyrics like, “All I wanted to see is that I am better, all I want to believe is that I am better. Round and Round.”
“Apple Orchard” is one of the songs that creates that sense of familiarity with words like “Let’s lie down for awhile” and “You know how it is my friend.” To quote Penny Lane, “if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” Listening to this debut album is like visiting an old friend who you haven’t seen in a while. They might not be near you all of the time, but they understand you in ways no other friends can.
The fourth song, and perhaps one of the best songs of Beach House’s career is “Master of None.” Words cannot describe the beauty and perfection of this song. So if you haven’t heard it, stop reading, go to YouTube enjoy it, and come back to finish reading the rest.
“Auburn and Ivory” and “Childhood” evoke a sense of remembering something that you can’t quite place because it’s more of a feeling than an actual memory. There is a pubescent theme in these two songs and they transported me back to the happy, yet sad and lonely days of being a child. Victoria sings “heartbreak and pony tails” in the former waltzy tune and “The beginning of the end, of the heart lost, was my friend in the latter tune. The nature of that place sends a sweet smell around my head. Oh well,” in the latter. These songs were written for the grown ups who are having trouble coming to terms with the fact that their “toys are dead.” These songs would fit perfectly inside a ballerina-spinning jewelry box. If anyone has the capability to construct something of that nature, please contact me immediately.
The next song “Lovelier Girl” caused a bit of controversy, but even if Beach House plagiarized or not, their cover of Tony, Caro, and John’s “The Snowdon Song,” actually improves the song. Victoria replaces the acoustic guitar with synthesizers to recreate a song that actually says something rather trying to be Neil Young circa his Harvest era.
The album slowly reaches towards the end with “House on the Hill.” This is the type of song you would listen to on a perfect fall day as the leaves fall to the ground and wish your life could be a like a movie. It’s a weird one, but sometimes its good to be a little weird and ride the wave for a while. Listen to this song loud so as to really enjoy the synthesizer solo.
Lastly, there is “Heart and Lungs,” or so you think. Just like the good ol’ days when bands used to place hidden tracks at the end of an album, Beach House delivered on their very first one with “Rain in Numbers.” To this day, I still get excited with the secret song begins to play because it’s the happy realization that the album isn’t yet over. “Heart and Lungs” is a quintessential Beach House song. Victoria counts off “1, 2, 3, 4” in the beginning, there is a reverberated drum machine and synthesizer and her deep, melodic voice flows above the music. The message is clear and simple: “It's all heart and lungs. It's not that much fun. It's hard, hard to run. It's not that much fun.”
“Rain in Numbers” breaks away from their usual modus operandi because it features only piano and Victoria’s angelic voice. The song sounds like it was recorded in one take on a tape recorder, which is a good thing, and it takes you back to a time before digital recording where imperfections and mistakes were apart of music. “Rain in Numbers” is the perfect ending to a seamlessly perfect album. The secret song foreshadowed the relationship I would come to have with the band because of the final words: “And we'll hold you the rest of your life.” You got me Beach House; you’ve really taken care of me over the years. Thank you.
On an unrelated and completely personal note, both Victoria and Alex of Beach House have amazing hair and that has got to count for something, right?
-Stacey Renberg is a human person with thoughts and feelings and is currently working on You Are Remarkable! Visit her site and feel good.