Before I talk about Beach House's third album — the top dreampop album of 2010 until further notice — I should reveal that I had the big gay whirlwind romance of my life under the influence of a steady stream of Beach House Mania at SxSW three years ago. (I know, right?) Point being: some things are impossible to be objective about. Beach House could drop an a cappella armpit-fart album and I'd probably sign on.
Although all this doesn't do much to validate my claim that Teen Dream ticks every box of the most demanding indie-rock checklist — from its woozy textural experimentation ("Norway") to Alex Scally's spine-straightening guitars ("Walk in the Park," "10 Mile Stereo") to its suddenly vogue reference bank (a thick fishnetting of Fleetwood Mac, M83, late-era Heart, and Mazzy Star) — it does give me an opportunity to get to the bottom of what, apart from my romantic hardwiring, has had me so bonkers over the album since it leaked last November. Part of my attraction owes to its unexpected tonal resemblance to longstanding Boston traditions (odd, since Beach House are from Baltimore): the gorgeously gruff and shimmering "Norway" had me trying to remember what the first Come song I ever heard was, and the noir nostalgia of "Used To Be" could have been donated by Victory at Sea. But the larger part is that Teen Dream sheds the uncertainties evident in past Beach House albums — each melodic turn (and there are many) balances the force of confidence with the momentum of curiosity.
Victoria Legrand goes breathless and takes you with her on "Real Love," her voice coiling like smoke in the arches of the church the band used for a studio. "Silver Soul" could be a standard if people slow-danced at divorces. And "Better Times" is the kind of dark, sinuous pop song that was written to make total strangers fall in love — the best way, if you ask me, to disqualify a critic.