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Beach House: Teen Dream (Sub Pop) 

One could accuse Baltimore's Beach House of being a one-trick pony, retreading the same ground on every album, producing monotonous material that doesn't waver from its single aesthetic principle, and being fronted by a mannish-sounding French-born chanteuse.

On all of these points, I can see where one would be coming from. But, oh, how wrong one would be. Especially with the release of their third (and greatest) album, Teen Dream, which—if justice is served—will convert and beguile all nonbelievers and cement its place as one of the finest albums of the new decade.

At the risk of overselling it, I declare Teen Dream a total masterpiece.

To detractors who'll say the songs sound too similar, you are wrong. Beach House has finally hit their stride, turning out 10 songs that deviate from the European-bordello flavor of their earlier work. There's a complicated mixture of sorrow and whimsy on Teen Dream. The band, finally, never affects a self-consciously maudlin persona here, and loses none of its aptitude for the bittersweet. In their hands, a song about zebras manages to both break your heart and feel like a heady rush. They're no longer operating in the shadow of Mazzy Star; in fact, Mazzy Star was never this good, or this artful.

On "Used to Be," we find a glittering, orchestral playfulness. "Lover of Mine" is bewitching and spooky, but buoyant.

Beach House has always excelled at rich atmospherics, but they'd never found the joyfulness in it—until now.

More by Sean Bottai

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