Beach House and Beachwood Sparks

Bloom, and The Tarnished Gold (Sub Pop)

Phases & Stages

Beach House

Bloom (Sub Pop)

Beachwood Sparks

The Tarnished Gold (Sub Pop)

Sub Pop's freshman class of new millennial pop, led by Beachwood Sparks and the Shins' Oh, Inverted World, rebooted Seattle's grunge imprint as a post-9/11 salve. The former L.A. quartet's Sweetheart of the Rodeo ride peaked on its second of two initial albums, 2001's Once We Were Trees, but on Tarnished Gold, the Beachwood Sparks' reunion drowns in a bog of bad production and lesser material. Even when the Seventies Laurel Canyon sound turns heavier psychedelic ("Sparks Fly Again") nothing catches fire under the LP's soggy sound. "Mollusk" swims on a symphony of gauzy guitars headed by a pedal steel, and the title track is delicate enough with more billowy, steel-lined clouds, but the lyrics are as weighty as aerosol, and no one's besting Calexico with "No Queremos Oro." United with said foursome at the nadir of pop malfeasance, Baltimore duo Beach House suffers its first sophomore slump on fourth LP Bloom, recorded in Texas, but not nearly so grand beyond the trademark minor chord melancholy of opener "Myth." Victoria Legrand's wondrously androgynous delivery camouflages the mulch at first, but by third track "Lazuli," the sonic haze has gotten so thick as to render each song a blur. Melodies, hooks, and choruses evince Beach House's candy core, but the nonexistent separation of sound makes the Blooming disc sound as if it's filtered through a dryer vent. "On the Sea" points the way to how revelatory an untreated piano could be to the band, but by then you can't hum or even name a single tune – hidden track included. Stick with recent Sub Pop prize Fear Fun from Father John Misty – there's no day at the beach here.

(Both) **

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Beach House, Beachwood Sparks

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