Heaven and Hell
On a now-defunct blog of a similar name I wrote in 2008 I posted a review of Beach House’s Devotion, their sophomore effort containing only one track I remember with any clarity, “Heart of Chambers.” Having written them off after a time as Belle & Sebastian clones (only slower and sadder), I tepidly approached Bloom after universal critical acclaim which included, predictably, overzealous reverence from Pitchfork—a 9.1 mark and lengthy, verbose praise ensuing—only to find that, indeed, it was their best effort; sensationally sonic even if all that gorgeous throbbing had little (or disinterested) emotional direction. On the flip side, supposed metal specters Ghost’s 2010 not-eponymous debut has only caught fire recently—still no Pitchfork review, though they graced the pages of Spin—yet I’m betting their elaborate image must account for this more than the music, which remains simple, non-canonical, and (un)intentionally hilarious.
BEACH HOUSE – Bloom (Sub Pop): Lo-fi aficionados enthuse over Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s hushed brand of meandering melancholia made pretty, though I prefer my sadness articulated towards something direct; dirges with indistinct subjects tend to be the worst kind of self-pitying poesy. But their dirges are different. They’re not as quiet as on 2010’s supposedly drool-worthy Teen Dream, the melodies are bolder, brighter paeans of the well-placed crescendo. More conducive from the get-go with “Myth,” an anthem encapsulating their entire ethos, they explore not the sadness of being alone but what a shame it is to wind up that way. And while twentysomethings devour such sentiments without forethought, Legrand and Scally are over thirty and should know better. Imagine how that feels. Embarrassing, I’ll bet. A MINUS
GHOST – Opus Eponymous (Rise Above/Metal Blade Records ‘10): Regardless of whether these anonymous, Lucifer-worshipping Swedes are serious, skull-faced ringleader Papa Emeritus’s voice is too clean and pretty to be demon-esque, the Nameless Ghouls’ knack for melody and catchy chorus too pleasant to be menacing. This is Diet Metal: Riffs lighter than the lightest Sabbath, not a single potty-mouth word in sight, and a runtime barely eking thirty-four minutes (minus the bonus Beatles cover) that there’s no time for runaway guitar solos, only crisp, clean ones. So either they’re talented musicians mocking the central maxims of what metal and all its pompous offshoots have become or they’re perfectly serious with their “I Heart Satan” routine—hooded robes, anti-pope dress and all—which still cranks the yuk potential from nine to more than nine. A MINUS
SINEAD O’CONNOR – How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? (One Little Indian): “Make me laugh like an idiot / Not be so serious.” For once. (“Old Lady,” “4th & Vine”) **
THE VACCINES – What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? (Columbia ’11): Indie trash, not trashy indie. (“Wreckin’ Bar,” “A Lack of Understanding”) *
BATTLES – Dross Glop (Warp)
ANDREW BIRD – Break It Yourself (Mom & Pop)