In many ways, the Picky Bastards writers are on a never-ending quest to enforce their music tastes upon each other.
Do Believe The Hype continues this theme. It’s a series where one writer introduces a beloved artist to another who has yet to be convinced by their legend.
This time it’s 10 tracks from dream pop pioneers Beach House carefully selected by Tom Burrows for Fran Slater’s listening pleasure…
So, before I get to the playlist, some context. I’ve not heard a lot of Beach House, although they’ve always been on the periphery of my tastes and are often talked about as an influence on bands I love such as the xx and Daughter, so I go into this with some excitement that they could be a big one for me. I want to believe the hype. I have heard a few tracks previously, though, and while I’ve never disliked anything I’ve heard only one track has ever really grabbed hold of me and that was ‘Zebra’ (previously introduced to me by Tom when we discussed 2010 in this remembering article.)
Maybe because he included ‘Zebra’ on that list, Tom has left it off this one. That feels like a brave move when he already knows I loved it, but then again, maybe he has got a playlist full of songs that he knows will grab me in exactly the same way. Let’s see:
Tom has gone with these ten tracks:
- ‘Master of None’
- ‘Walk In The Park’
- ‘Space Song’
- ‘Drunk in L.A’
I went to see The Smile with Tom the week before writing this article and we briefly discussed how I was getting on with his playlist, making sure not to give the game away. Tom shared that he loves this band with all his heart and was expecting me to rip them apart. I will say that, from listen one of his playlist, I was clear that there would be no brutal response from me – I am definitely not going to hate Beach House and I also find it hard to imagine anyone who would. There’s nothing here to hate.
But, at the same time, I also found that on my early listens there wasn’t an awful lot to grab hold of either. The reason that Beach House seem hard to hate for me is that they are just so endlessly palatable, their shtick of being the cool kids making dreamy indie leads to playlist full of pleasant tunes that sound pretty and delicate, and like they’d make a great band to see in the sun at a festival, but at the same time they are not always that engaging. It would be easy for this to wash over you.
My first few runs through the playlist did suggest some frontrunners for my favourite songs, though, with two of them being off 2012 album Bloom. Five songs into the playlist, it was the slightly off kilter keys and synths of ‘Myth’ that really hooked me in for the first time. I also like the way this song changes up halfway through which, in my eyes, is something that Beach House weren’t doing often enough for me here. ‘Lazuli’ follows. This track has more energy and verve than anything we’ve heard so far and I’m down for it.
The other song that really grabbed me early doors was ‘Bluebird’, which has a darker, more subversive feel that anything else here. I was awoken from my slumber each time the weird, chimey intro kicked in.
These were the only three songs that stood out as I got to grips with Beach House, but I liked them enough to believe that the band could grow on me as a whole the more I listened.
But they never really did. ‘Norway’, which I am imagining was a huge hit for the band, was the only other song that revealed more to me with repeated listens. The lushness of it, the way it grows, the catchy chorus – I’m strongly on board with this one, even if it never grabbed me in the way that the three tracks I’ve already mentioned did. I’ll be singing ‘Norway-ay-ay-ay-Norway’ in my dreams, though.
But to quickly run through the other tracks I haven’t mentioned so far, I was never able to get there with the opening combo of ‘Master of None’ and ‘Gila’. These two songs are so laid back that I don’t think they’d get out of their chair if the house was on fire – they also bleed into each other so much that, as an opening duo, they confirmed my pre-playlist fears that I might find Beach House a little samey.
If Tom hadn’t included ‘Norway’, that samey feeling would have continued with ‘Walk In The Park’ which is pretty and shiny but does little for me. ‘Space Song’ plods along quite nicely but doesn’t inspire. And the final combo of ‘Drunk in L.A.’ and ‘Superstar’ are both, like every song here, nice enough to listen to without ever blowing me away.
‘Norway’, ‘Myth’, ‘Lazuli’, and ‘Bluebird’ remain steadfast as the highlights here, and definitely save the playlist from ending up being too one note for me to get any joy.
So, do I believe the hype?
In a way, I have two answers to that question. One if an unequivocal yes as, listening to Beach House as regularly as I have for the past few weeks, it is impossible not to see their thumbprint over so much of the music industry these days (for better and for worse). They’re clearly a hugely influential band.
As well as that, their laid-back, cool dude, summer vibes have loads of settings in which they would be totally and utterly perfect. A lazy Sunday morning. Sitting on a beach watching a sunset. The last day of a festival, when all you need is something calming and slightly uplifting that you don’t have to dance to.
But my other answer is a more personal one. And I suppose it’s answering a different question, which is something along the lines of ‘do I love Beach House?’ I’d have to say that at this point, many of my previous expectations have been confirmed. They have shining moments, songs that I love, but overall their schtick is a little too laidback for me – they just don’t command my attention in the way that I would like.
But I should point out that there wasn’t a single song I disliked on this playlist, even if there were several I was nonplussed by. There were, also, four that I loved. And with two of them being from Bloom, I will absolutely be giving that album a listen soon.
And even as I write this, while listening to the playlist and typing the conclusion, I am hearing closing song ‘Superstar’ in a different way to how I have before. Suddenly the euphoric final moments have me questioning every negative comment I’ve made in this article.
So who knows, maybe there’s still hope for me and Beach House after all…
Words by Fran Slater