21 Jun Presenting: The 20 Greatest Beach House Tracks
Presenting: The 20 Greatest Beach House Tracks
In anticipation of the upcoming B-sides and Rarities compilation release, we tackle the famed dream-pop duo, Beach House’s best and most beloved
It didn’t take long for Beach House to cement their place in the dream-pop stratosphere as one of the greatest in the genre, easily holding their own alongside the genre’s definers like Cocteau Twins and Slowdive, individualizing with a dynamic, resonating identity – of warmth and intimacy, punctuated among the confines of some pretty damn good songwriting.
In an interview with Charlie Rose, the group spoke of their songwriting process, highlighting that every ingredient has to add towards that emotion, “anything you put on – any layer, bridge, or drum beat, anything you add, anytime it leaves that feeling, then you’re going the wrong way.”
“There’s an emotional colour that starts to come out of something, and you don’t know what it is right away but you get this feeling – and this feeling can be blank but it’s a real thing. If there’s something really real there we’ll keep playing it, repeating it, pulling it, and then eventually – if we’re really lucky the words just come out. The words and the sounds they form instantly. The goal is to never lose that feeling that made you get excited about the idea in the first place.”
With a consistent streak of great albums that exist in a sort of philosophy, they’ve managed to capture the hearts and a kind of loyalty you don’t find in alternative music fanbases these days and beyond. They’ve projected those qualities of warmth and lovingness within that fanbase; extending an inherent tenderness that lives beyond the music.
“I believe we’ve found that (balance of artistic integrity and commercial success) – through instinct, intuition, and doing things from a natural place, we’ve tried our best,” Legrand says.
Their evolution and growth has been gradual but interesting, with 2006’s Self-Titled LP Beach House establishing the duo as a mysterious and potent force in the landscape of modern dream pop, from album opener Saltwater’s churning guitar abyss “Love you all the time/ Even though you are not mine” to Lovelier Girl’s gentle, tranquil slide-guitar heaven.
Their follow-up, Devotion (2008) was mastery – exuding a deep-seated loneliness whilst painting a barren and decrepit darkness-filled world of longing, punctuating raw emotion in a nihilistic splendor of chamber pop. From second track You Came To Me’s sand-mimicked shuffle against some distant and hollow bass drums to a pained meditation on unrequited love “By the dock of the pond Turtle Island/ I will wait for you silently” on Turtle Island, Devotion was sonically impressive and more importantly, a hallmark statement of intent – this aesthetic, this mood, this texture is now Beach House’s signature.
Teen Dream (2010) was the ambitious magnum opus, plodding out iconic hits after hits for a band that recently stated they went against “explicitly picking the “best” or most catchy songs for their records“. Zebra was an exciting and unraveling opener to form the story of what’s to come “Don’t I know you better than the rest/All deception, all deception from you” whilst Silver Soul brought the cavalcade forward, setting the stage neatly for the holster of what’s to be Beach House’s most recognizable tracks yet.
Bloom (2012) would build upon the domination while Depression Cherry (2015) and Thank Your Lucky Stars (2015) brought some evolution and needed re-invention to a blossoming career (no pun intended).
A B-Sides and Rarities compilation featuring the rest of the tracks that didn’t make it onto the studio albums will be out come the end of the month on June 30, and features the likes of Christmas tune I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun to the distortion filled 2008 single version of Used To Be, heralding a sort of end to this cycle of Beach House destiny.
It’s a great time to make a list reflecting on an amazing career of Beach House’s music, with the B-Sides compilation coming right round the corner.
This is undoubtedly one of the hardest lists I’ve had to make, considering the scope and consistency of their material. To note, there will never and should never be a definitive list on any band’s music. This, is just a collection of favorites. The art of subjectivity and personal interpretation is a really wholesome, and needed thing in the realm of music, and let’s keep it that way.
PS: This list might change – and I might feel a little different towards the material in a few years.
Also: here’s a tidbit on the Beach House Master of None connection to Aziz Ansari’s hit Netflix series
No but that song is in the show! It closes episode 3. Each ep has a different opening and closing song. https://t.co/p0VKHcjiKW
— Aziz Ansari (@azizansari) October 22, 2015
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Heart of Chambers, On The Sea, Lovelier Girl, All The Years, Space Song, PPP, Rough Song
Without further to do, here goes!
20. “Wishes” (from Bloom, 2012)
Is it even real the contact that you made/ The moment when a memory aches
19. “Gila” (from Devotion, 2008)
Man, you’ve got a lot of jokes to tell/ So you throw your baby’s pennies down the well
18. “Wildflower” (from Depression Cherry, 2015)
No better color, look everywhere/ We’re driving home every night
17. “Real Love” (from Teen Dream, 2010)
I met you somewhere in a hell beneath the stairs/ There’s someone in that room/ That frightens you when they go boom
16. “Irene” (from Bloom, 2012)
Though you hardly know her/ The light’s on it’s way
15. “Turtle Island” (from Devotion, 2008)
By the dock of the pond turtle island/ I will wait for you there creeping silently
14. “Used To Be” (from Teen Dream, 2010)
Don’t forget the nights when it all felt right/ Are you the not the same as you used to be?
13. “Levitation” (from Depression Cherry , 2015)
The branches of the trees/ They will hang lower now
12. “Wild” (from Bloom, 2012)
My mother said to me/ That I would get in trouble
11. “Sparks” (from Depression Cherry, 2015)
You go to school/ You follow all the rules/ You live inside
Note: Sparks not even cracking the Top 10 is a statement of how consistently amazing Beach House’s music is ;-;;;;;;;;
10. “Zebra” (from Teen Dream, 2010)
Don’t I know you better than the rest?
I recall the time I listened to my first ever Beach House song (the first track off Teen Dream which would also be the very first introduction for a lot of BH fans). It was in December of 2015 (Yes, I caught on late), and I was in class, using whatever spare minutes of a break to just try out this established dream pop sensation that everyone was raving over.
I remember how overpowering and overbearing the track felt to me at first listen, and eventually I put it down after a few tries – I could not for the life of me get into it at all. This was a track I thought I just hated! It felt overly-produced, and made me queasy with it’s fullness.
A month passed, and gradually I grew towards the rest of the tracks on Teen Dream. How couldn’t I?
I started to look at Zebra in a different light and started to appreciate it’s sonic textures and purpose. It was also a time when I started to look at music in general within the confines of context. Eventually the lines grew less blurry, and I started to fall head over heels. This arching cavalcade of a track had an enviable, invincible quality about it – plowing down everything in it’s path and inch by inch feeling all the more invigorating. Beach House are relatively famed for their great openers “Saltwater/Wedding Bell/ Myth/ Levitation”, but Zebra was their most important.
9. “Myth” (from Bloom, 2012)
You can’t keep holding on / To all that’s dead and gone
What should a band do after releasing their best-selling dream-pop classic? Some bands reinvent themselves, taking experimental risks – with some paying off and others falling quite short in the run up. 2012’s Bloom wasn’t far off in style or structure from it’s predecessor and instead looked towards building upon that formula. This was a retaking of Teen Dream, an expansion on that set of work, refining a trademark with (arguably) better songwriting. Then, following up that blueprint with more nuance and experience – building another unbelievable set of highs encompassing just over 60 minutes of orgastic audio.
Myth, (probably the band’s most recognizable tune and widely touted as the #1 track you introduce BH to a friend with) is a straightforward, no BS, dream-pop banger, replete with an iconic E-major/C minor chord progression on keys and a wailing, unstoppable electric guitar solo. But beyond that, it’s an opening statement very well in the confines of Zebra, with Legrand belting out lines of “myth building” and “hanging on” to the past, all while displaying the purpose behind a feeling in their music as “universal connections” to their listeners.
“We wrote a lot about the power of imagination. I want people to feel how it makes them feel. You get older and you realize that everything changes, that nothing lasts. But that also makes being in the moment and having the experience that much more meaningful.”
– Victoria Legrand (off Genius)
8. “D.A.R.L.I.N.G” (from Devotion, 2008)
Where did you come from/ You’re no… stranger
There was a poll on the /r/indieheads subreddit not too far back on the community’s titled “Top Ten Beach House Tracks”, with a pretty funny comment stating “RIP Devotion, best album of all time 2008-2016 RIP” – in response to not a single track from that 2008 record making it on to the list, with many rationalizing the recency and more straightforwardness appeal of Depression Cherry, Teen Dream, and Bloom.
There’s a certain subtlety in Devotion that takes awhile to manifest and shine when you’re comparing it to other BH albums in the discography. It’s awfully skeletal and “quiet” to a certain extent but can be affecting and engaging as well. It houses a dark and deep seated energy which is reflected in Scally’s guitar-riffs and Victoria’s vocals – sounding more purposefully despondent than ever. Personally, I see it as a ruminative and serene meditation on heartbreak and unrequited love (which you could state follows in the reins of the S/T) with tracks like Turtle Island and Home Again espousing a type of loneliness that’s so downtrodden and depressing, enabling the band to posit a certain type of empathy and humanity in their music.
D.A.R.L.I.N.G is that uplifting, fairytale ending to that period of turgid nihilism. And maybe that’s why it’s so memorable. It’s a savior. It’s romanticism turned eleven.
7. “Saltwater” (from Beach House, 2006)
Love you all the time even though you’re not mine / Dream I’m in the saltwater
Saltwater trudges among pretty similar territory as the entry that just came before it.
With it’s oscillating drum machine loop and fervent lyrics on an unanswered love, Saltwater feels like you’re being in a submarine shaped time machine, burrowing through the course of an unspoken spiritual sea, with every dive a more tantalizing peek behind the veil of mystery that is Beach House, only to see the buried emotional treasure chest in full, luminous view, feeling every line of longing and heartache off Legrand’s solitary bellow. “You couldn’t lose me if you tried/ Cause I’ll be rolling to your side, baby”
6. “Silver Soul” (from Teen Dream, 2010)
We gather medicine for heartache/ So we can act a fool
Yes, the Twin Peaks reference and the fact that the track played in reverse forms the main beat of Kendrick Lamar’s Money Trees are both great, with the fact that there’s mystery lyrics Scally sings that they’ve refused to reveal even better, but all that shouldn’t take away from the fact that… this is a genuinely great f*cking song. Legrand’s deep and embellishing bellows “It is happening again/ It is happening again” supplemented with those vocal harmonies and a dripping guitar line picked back and forth add up to a penetrating, muscular wall of sound – glimmering with majesty and absolute beauty.
5. “Master of None” (from Beach House, 2006)
You always go to the parties/ To pluck the feathers of all the birds
Sometimes to appreciate the complexities of a band’s musicianship and evolution arc, you’ve gotta go back to the roots. Master of None is a playful, sweet-hearted ballad of wit that’ll probably go down as one of the catchiest tracks (and vocal melodies) of the duo’s highlighted tenure.
This was, in a sense – Beach House’s first pop song, which is an important necessity in providing a sort of balance with their deep cuts. It turned the spotlight on full throttle towards the group’s most endearing qualities – in songwriting personality, in intention-ed composition and in nuanced, authentic feeling. That dual drum hit, those quirky upbeat keys, that melancholic guitar riff bouncing around, and a mildly staccato vocal melody is pure fun.
4. “10 Mile Stereo” (from Teen Dream, 2010)
Bright Pyramids at night, they carry on Foreveeeeeeeeeeer
If you take away the intention, you lose the feeling, the power, the grit and the appeal. There’s no phoning in here. Every resounding guitar loop, bass drum frolic and keyboard chord act towards building an emotion. On 10 Mile Stereo, everything is a directed and potent attempt at cultivating the world’s most powerful song. With every step forward, that feeling is brighter and more convincing.
As Scally describes in an interview about the differences between Teen Dream and it’s predecessor, he speaks about the latter’s raw aesthetic and an artistic need to move towards something new instead – with that being recording in a “real studio”, envisioning the music to be a “giant crystalline panoramic soundscape.” On 10 Mile Stereo, they meet and surpass every goal with grueling intensity.
3. “The Hours” (from Bloom, 2012)
Frightened eyes, looking back at me/ Change your mind, don’t care about me
We’re willing to go out on a limb and call this their most underrated track. It’s a blitz of deliciously carved arpeggios, captivating lullaby-esque melodies and is just a straight up stunner.
It’s a really succulent banger, with a hell of an infectious chorus, and even more incredible bridge “It’s deeper than you and me/ It’s farther than you can see.” And more so, the track narratively focuses on a dilemma of confession – to make the brave step, to have heart, to understand that love is ultimately complex, and can be communicated in more ways than one.
It begins with a nervous wander, where the narrator contemplates profession, and it’s then coupled with some fable-like imagery. She’s“climbing up to the towers” only to meet some tensions of “violence in the flowers”, and “a pair of frightened eyes looking back at me”. One of them has gone “mad in (their) intentions” and is now “fear(ing) it isn’t real.”
This is all culminated with the narrator projecting that the circumstance is “deeper than you and me”, with the line repeated in the outro, but instead taking on an immediate, different meaning over a repeated chorus (of Frightened eyes) that comfortingly juxtaposes her subject’s fear, the reassurance serving up to be a very special moment.
2. “Walk in the Park” (from Teen Dream, 2010)
The face that you see in the door/ Isn’t standing there anymore
Everything’s just working on such a supreme level here, the connection and level of understanding between the hopping keys and that electric guitar riff is so masterful and unreal that it matures during the duration of the track. It then supersedes to a chorus where it feels like the guitar and Legrand are actually taking turns – singing off each other. “In a matter of time it would slip from my mind/ In and out of my life you would slip from my mind ”
The story chronicles the loss of a connection and how you move on from that romance with a verse driving a dagger inside your abstract perfect world, killing it “The world that you love to behold/ Cannot hold you anymore”. There’s also a pretty infamous and insane music video that comes along with it – perhaps mirroring the absurdity and fallibility in love’s uncertainty.
Whatever happens, we think this will stand the test of time and go on to be one of Beach House’s all-time greats.
1. “Take Care” (from Teen Dream, 2010)
I’ll take care of you if you asked me to/ In a year or two
If there was ever a musical embodiment of Beach House, this is it. It’s not just a moving piece that encapsulates the strengths and philosophy of a Beach House tune, but it’s an evocative encore, a closing statement that bears an assured but understanding nature – Legrand’s belting out “I’ll take care of you, if you want me to” with some ever-pleasing adorable “bom, bom, bom, bom, bom’s” just trickling under.
Mentioned in a Rolling Stone review aptly – their music is a “purer vision on the realities of love.” This one is as clear as it can be as it cascades into a grand and wide open future.
Also the film Blue Is The Warmest Colour had a pretty memorable trailer using the track, and it’s a really good visual fit in terms of conveying that mood and feeling.
Responding to a comment about the perfection as the ending on the album off an Artist Direct interview, Legrand had this to say:
“That song is definitely in its right place at the end. I think it’s definitely an intense song. The way that it keeps going until it leaves you or you leave it, means a lot about the future. This record is not a nostalgic record, necessarily. It’s not just melancholic. It’s not just languid. It’s other things, and I think as much as it has more sexuality in it perhaps, it still has darkness in it of course. I’m sure there’s still heartbreak. I think there’s a little future in it. That’s something that I don’t think we played with before. I always compare it to the energy of “10 Mile Stereo.” It’s lancing you into something new or exciting. It was giving us an energy that propelled us forward.”
And so this bit of commemoration ends.
There are a number of lists out there, but we wanted to collate an updated and pretty comprehensive one in this, in which it reflected more similarly to that of a community that held their music more closely to their heart. It was really great to do, but now we await any new chapters of their music we hope we’ll be seeing in the future. And hey! There’s a new Beach House record coming out next week, and that’s to be treasured.
Again, one of the most interesting things in music is the power of interpretation, so feel free to tell us your own list in the comments section below~
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