Those of you in Auckland and Wellington are lucky to have the chance to see Beach House this weekend. I’ve been listening to the second album from this Baltimore band a lot over the past week and it has quickly become one of my favourites. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally create lush, dreamy pop just perfect for wintry nights. Of course I like my pop to sound from another time, and Beach House make their keyboards, fuzzy guitars and harpsichords sound other-worldly. Legrand’s vocals are warm and hazy at times reminiscent of Nico, at others a drugged Debbie Harry. The lyrical subject matter is the stuff of all good pop – romance, unrequited love, lonesomeness, etc. The result is an assured and fully realised sound, which I think you will like if you are a fan of Cat Power or Isobel Campbell. Incidentally, Legrand is the niece of Michel Legrand, the composer of many a hallucinogenic French film soundtrack. Maybe it is something in the genes.
The other album currently on high rotation at my house is In My Own Time by the late and uncelebrated blues singer Karen Dalton. A skilled guitar and banjo player, with a voice like Billie Holiday, Dalton was an unusual presence on the 60s folk scene. She wasn’t really a songwriter, preferring to cover material. In My Own Time is a mixed bag of soul, folk and blues tunes. Her version of Katie Cruel is one of the best I have heard.
Dalton’s career was marred by drink and drug addiction and she only made a couple of albums. She died in 1993, never receiving the recognition her unique sound deserves. Luckily she is becoming a bit of a cult hero, thanks in part to Bob Dylan calling her one of his favourite singers in Chronicles Volume One. Other fans include Nick Cave, Lenny Kaye and Devendra Banhart, all of whom contribute essays to the CD booklet.