by Mike LeSuer (@zebraabraham)
Although it’s probably never been toted as such, Beach House’s Bloom is one of the most groundbreaking records to surface over the past decade. Still riding a high brought upon by their breakout album Teen Dream two years previously, the duo dropped their follow-up less as a statement than as a passive answer to the question on everybody’s minds: What big changes lie ahead for Beach House in the wake of critical acclaim? Their answer: none. In fact, Pitchfork got a rise out of a typically-stoic Alex Scally when they drew attention to the band’s voluntary arrested development.
The public’s need for chameleon musicians dates back to The Beatles’s coming-of-age in America, if not further, but continues to live on in a time when we no longer have Bowie around to rely upon when rock and roll starts to get stale. As Scally perceptively notes, disappointment has become the knee-jerk reaction to a more-of-the-same release by artists in most genres open to development.
As the musical zeitgeist debates the merits of rebranding and the limits of artistic integrity, Easthampton’s Kindling slumps into the lecture hall inexcusably late, earphones in, hair unkempt, and tosses their backpack into an empty seat in the nosebleeds, likely partaking from a grungy relation of shoegaze that wrought Beach House. Despite a slight improvement in recording technology since their 2014 debut, the five-piece has been busy cranking out new iterations of the same basic formula over the span of four EPs and a full length, presently following up January’s No Generation EP with more spitfire noise pop in the form of LP number two, Hush.
As expected, there’s little in the way of change on Hush with the exception of a more confident gait. Opener “For Olive” sounds less like an introduction to the band in an evolved state as it does a casual continuation of where they last left off. What follows is a whirlwind of familiar sounds tweaked to accentuate their strong suits—heavy, abrupt start-stop soundscapes, dramatic slow-builds with unexpected conclusions (spoilers: “Rain” clears up nicely, “Wait” achieves severe flood warnings)—while Gretchen Williams and Stephen Pierce’s gauzy harmonies remain constant.
Hush ironically boasts some of the band’s heaviest riffs to date, ranging from those of complementary groove-hards “Everywhere” and “Wherever” to the headbang intensity of “Better World.” Additionally, the album features percussionist Andy Skelly (not to be confused with Alex Scally) at his most inspired, channeling David Bazan’s percussive feat on Pedro’s “Magazine” for “Everywhere” while setting blistering paces on closers “It Will” and “Wet Leaves.”
For a group as yet-unrecognized as Kindling, Hush probably won’t answer any burning questions posed about the band, but will rather read as a quiet, angsty statement: “We’re Kindling and this what we sound like.” Slipping their earbud back into their ears and slouching into their stadium seat: “If you don’t like us, that’s your problem.”
Beach House should be proud.