Formed thirteen years ago, Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House have produced enough non-LP material that they feel warrants the release of a B-Sides and Rarities compilation. However, one Twitter commenter appeared to disagree, informing them that all Beach House a-sides are essentially b-sides. The duo decided to respond, explaining that their intention has never been to put out commercially appealing music, but instead have tried to create albums that were cohesive, and that the new compilation contains songs that “didn’t have a place on the records we were making.”
As far as it goes, Beach House are a fairly popular band with a dedicated following, one that grew considerably at the beginning of the decade on the back of 2010’s Teen Dream and 2012’s Bloom. However, as more people have fallen in love with their music, others have wondered what all the fuss is about. It’s true that the duo rarely stray far from their signature sound, built around the ethereal huskiness of vocalist Victoria Legrand, the smooth and airy guitar work of Alex Scally, soft organs or keys, and a simple, slow paced beat. But despite their perceived limitations, they’re very good at what they do.
B-Sides and Rarities covers a decades worth of material written between 2005 to 2015, in which time they released six full-length albums, two EPs and contributed to various compilations. Opener and lead-single ‘Chariot’ is classic Beach House, recorded in between sessions for 2015’s Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, it’s difficult to comprehend why it wasn’t included on either of those albums. Other highlights include Bloom outtake ‘Equal Mind’, removed because it was too similar in tempo to ‘Other People’, and the original 2008 single version of ‘Used to Be’, later re-made for their third album Teen Dream.
Less impressive though are a couple of remixes of singles taken from Teen Dream, ‘Norway’ from their iTunes Session EP and a ‘cough syrup’ version of ’10 Mile Stereo’, both of which are slowed down. However, from the same aforementioned iTunes Session EP comes the lovely ‘White Moon’, recorded during the making of Teen Dream alongside another compilation highlight titled ‘The Arrangement’. Queen cover ‘Play the Game’ is also a worthy addition, recorded for a charity compilation benefiting AIDS research, while the earliest song here is ‘Rain In Numbers’, created using an old and out of tune piano borrowed from a friend in the summer of 2005 (although it sounds like it could be a recording from the 1930s), it originally appeared as a secret-track on their self-titled debut in 2006.
B-Sides and Rarities is unlikely to convince any Beach House doubters or win the duo many new fans, but it will be a very welcome release for those who have followed their work over the past decade. With this clear out of sorts could the Baltimore duo be gearing themselves up for a shift in musical direction on album number seven? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Released: 30th June 2017
Label: Sub Pop / Bella Union
Genre: Dream Pop
Rating: Strong 6 to a Light 7