Beach House: B-Sides and Rarities

Slow drum beat fades in; Legrand matches an synth arpeggios with her Q Lazzarus-style vocals. The first song on the album, “Chariot,” sweeps up listeners in 80’s ballad-style with sliding harmonics guitars.

B-Sides and Rarities is as dreamy as ever, and is absolutely drenched in reverb. The album takes a quick step back from Beach House’s typical transitional compositions. “Baby” follows quickly after, and the mix comes alive. Soulful and raw, Victoria Legrand’s vocals stand strong in the mix. The drums tumble through spaced out synths, and padding harmonies build to grand moments of honesty.

For a band that admits to not writing specifically commercial music, releasing a b-sides record makes a lot of sense. While they focused more on creating seamless cohesiveness within their previous 6 LPs, the latest B-Sides and Rarities, includes pieces that were written and did not fit within those albums according to Legrand and Scally (subpop.com). The album, therefore, is not entirely made up of new songs, but rather a compilation of Beach House’s hidden gems.

Beach House has been writing music since the band formed in 2004, and has released an impressive number of tracks. These b-sides may not flow together compositionally, but even through distinct variation in song type, sometimes bending genre from surfy guitar to folky vocal harmonies. The song “Used to Be (2008 Single Version)” has excellent pop sensibility with simple drums and Legrand’s harmonies.

The drums remain simple throughout the album, giving the listener a sense of great space. Legrand sings rhythmically along with the drums within “Norway.” The song is like something out of a fairytale, with lyrics to match; “We were sleeping ‘til // you came along // with your tiny heart,” and “seven figures leap the hungry mouths // the beast, he comes to you,” pull a storyline along as her soft rasp, pretty and haunting, is in dialogue with Scally’s heavy-effected guitar. To transition to the chorus, she sings, “Don’t you know it’s true?”

Alex Scally’s signature chorused guitar parts are dreamy throughout but stand out particularly distinctly within iTunes session remix of “White Moon,” and “Play the Game,” a beautiful and gentle droning tribute to Freddie Mercury. “The Arrangement” gave an attitude in the contrast between perky drums and piano, and the dark lyrics, “Know that you’re really not a dancer // or good at reading other people’s smiles // they are two-faced in the mirror,” gives the listener an idea of what it may feel like to have the expectations set out for you that a performer may on a day to day basis, while still keeping up the perky exterior.

It’s clear that these “b-sides” are only labeled as such because of the amount of time and effort that Beach House puts into composing their albums as a whole. Though disconnected, the songs are not as disjointed as one may think, down to their instrumental, soft, droning sections in “Saturn Song” and “Rain in Numbers.”

Rating: 6.5/10

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