ummer songs have simple blueprints, syndicated by open windows in June; winter's about bells, strings, and digital sounds, anything with a sharp edge; spring's pretty simple if you start with a seed. Autumn, though, that's a tougher proposition. Those records are few and far between, and worth all the more for it. Beach House aren't called that for the same reason the Beach Boys are, but rather to evoke the desolation of the season after. I'm no synaesthetic but this stuff pretty much screams amber, orange, translucence, and late-October trembles, and I'll be glad to have it in my life over the next couple of months.
Baltimore's Beach House are singer/organist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally. Because they come from such a well-defined tradition-- the boy-girl duo making lovesick, narcotized rock with lots of depth and sweep-- it's pretty much impossible to listen to this, their debut, without making certain connections. Bands like Mazzy Star, Galaxie 500, Spiritualized, and Slowdive will come to mind, but this is neither pastiche nor homage. While a lot of their sounds and shapes are the same, Beach House's recipe of fairground waltzes, ghosted lullabies, and woodland hymnals feels more intimate than those of their forerunners. The Hope Sandovals and Jason Pierces of the world mostly wanted to make their songs bigger than their heartaches, to rub out messiness with beauty; Beach House play their songs for a much smaller room, and aren't afraid to stare down a mistake if it comes bounding back in echoes.
At no point during Beach House's 35 minutes does it ever sound like the work of more than two people. Mostly, those people even sound human. Flubbed notes, missed cues, and empty spaces mottle these songs; the instruments speak with imperfection and the music hums impassively along. Our first sign that the sand is cold comes quickly; opener "Saltwater" shivers to life with a sputtering drum machine, some decaying organs, and, eventually, Legrand's baleful vocals. She sings clearly, without affect, and produces notes that trail off with uncommon power, not unlike Nico, to whom she's often compa