The musical duo Beach House has carved out an influential niche in the music world, being singularly committed to making their own kind of music; romantic, evocative and haunting. On June 30th the pair released “B-Sides and Rarities” which offers up exactly what the title suggests. This is their first compilation album and contains tracks that got lost in obscurity or were in some cases left on the shelf. The band has stated the latest release contains all the previously unreleased songs the duo has created throughout their musical history. There by indicating with that statement that the album is a must buy for their fans.
Multi instrumentalist Alex Scally and French born singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand formed Beach House in 2004; setting up shop in Alex’s hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Beach House has produced many brilliant releases since their eponymous debut and has drawn additional fans and critical praise with each subsequent release. “B-Sides and Rarities” acts like the final punctuation to their latest period of creativity which was marked by their dual 2015 releases “Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars”. On those two albums the band went back to earlier approaches producing an amazing number of songs and some of their best work. The release of “B-Sides and Rarities” has caused many critics and fans to wonder if this album is a clearing of the decks before the creative duo move off to experiment in other musical stylings.
“B-sides and Rarities” is a career spanning effort, stretching from 2005 to 2015. Each release gets a look in with the “Depression Cherry” era albums and “Teen Dream” release gets the strongest representation. Also of note is the iconoclastic charm of the release format. In an era filled with Spotify and curated playlists the duo has produced an ode to the compilation album format which is an almost extinct entity. This compilation has no chronological order and some critics have stated that it is hard to figure out without the extensive notes from the band when the songs on the effort evolved. I tend to disagree with that statement; if you are familiar with Beach House’s music it is fairly easy to figure out which songs derive from which release. Instead what is really striking is how frequently I found myself wondering how different tracks didn’t make the final cut onto the original releases. I found that especially true for the songs that remained left over from the “Depression Cherry” era. The end result after listening to ‘B-sides and Rarities” was that I found myself yet again standing in awe of the duo’s creative abilities.
B-Sides and Rarities” begins with the never before released “Chariot” which resulted from the “Thank Your Lucky Stars” sessions and is an absolute stunner. It is everything Beach House has come to represent musically. It is lush and soaring with Victoria delivering a beautiful Karen Carpenter like contralto vocal. Upon listening I found myself torn between the glorious expansiveness and overwhelmingly bittersweet emotion of the track. The accompanying video nails the haunted melancholy of the selection. If for no other reason this track makes the release worth the purchase, but as the infomercial spokesman says wait there is more.
“Baby” is yet another track that is fantastic, displaying a more upbeat vibe. I always love Victoria’s vocals and here she delivers a sultry Marlene Dietrich/Nico performance. She brings to life an ingénue who is setting her sites on the entire local male population. Continuing forward the track “Equal Mind” which was left off of 2012’s “Bloom”, caused me to again wonder how this excellent song didn’t make the original cut. It does harken to its twin “Other People” but its sparkling keyboard set it apart. All the tracks on “B sides and Rarities” are engaging, with each displaying what is so special about Beach House. The duo proffers excellent examples of why they have endured in a turbulent musical industry not often friendly to their kind of nuanced works. A superb example of their musical sensibilities is the notable song “White Moon” from the “Teen Dream” era. The selection has this wonderful atmospheric feel and harkens to Serge Gainsbourg’s stylings. The circa “Depression Cherry” era track “Baseball Diamond” is another prior unreleased song that shows off the musical chops and maturity the duo has acquired. I rate “Play The Game” as the best cover and ode to this Queen classic ever recorded and it is not to be missed for its unique approach. I cannot recommend both “Saturn Song” and “Rain In the Numbers” enough. “Saturn Song” was left off of ‘Bloom”. It is filled with interstellar goodness and is gloriously haunting and moody; a simply spectacular track. “Rain In the Numbers” is the oldest track in the compilation. I adore the detuned piano and it’s off kilter feel has pervaded Beach House’s sound ever since. The vocal approach harkens to the Cocteau Twins. It is a worthy track that deserves a nod of recognition on the release. The album ends with “Wherever You Go” the hidden track off of their debut and gives the release a lovely trippy sendoff and a touch of nostalgia for what has past.
Beach House marks over a decade of brilliant creativity with “B-Sides and Rarities” and with it underline their prolific music abilities and consistent quality of output. “B-Sides and Rarities” is a must have addition to any Beach House fan’s collection. It illuminates the band’s creative process during the constructing of their excellent discography. For those looking for a way to plug into this band’s works but not knowing where to start, this compilation is a fantastic gateway into Beach House. Found throughout the compilation are songs that reflect the mad skills of Scally and Legrand as they in turn offer up respect for their own musical heroes. Beach House has always presented through each release a thoughtful blending of their musical sensibilities while attempting to create musical alchemy. “B-sides and Rarities” continues to a shine light on that desired goal and offers a glimpse into their singular creative process.