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November 2020

Beach House - B-Sides and Rarities

Little more than a curiosity for the die-hard fans.
Beach House - B-Sides and Rarities
Published: 10:40 am, June 30, 2017
Little more than a curiosity for the die-hard fans.

Label: Bella Union
Released: 30th June 2017
Rating: ★★

There’s often a reason why B-sides are given second billing, and other tracks are thrown to the wayside. But when they happen to be as good, if not better, than the A-side, then it’s something truly magical. Think David Bowie’s 'Suffragette City', Radiohead’s 'Talk Show Host', practically everything off Carly Rae Jepsen’s 'Emotion: Side B' or Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered.

Unfortunately, Beach House’s 'B-Sides and Rarities' does not quite fit into this esteemed selection. Listening to the 14 tracks featured here, you almost wonder why they thought there was a need for it. Of course, it’s nice to have tracks you may have heard on sessions but never again, or gain an insight into what didn’t make the cut in, say, Teen Dream. But why an album of them?

Where Beach House excel is in making coherent albums. Albums that flow like a finely woven tapestry. But remove the structure, and the cracks start to show. Were this compilation in chronological order, charting the evolution of their sound from the cutting room floor, then perhaps there would be some purpose to assembling these b-sides and rarities as an album. But as it stands, there appears to be no rhyme nor reason to the tracklist.

The remixes of 'Norway' and '10 Mile Stereo' are practically stripped of their magic; one sounding too lethargic and the other simply mixed badly. The association with actually released songs also puts a dampener on the enjoyment. You can’t help but hear the similarities between 'Equal Mind' and 'Bloom'’s 'Other People', so much so that, during the pre-chorus, you’re fully expecting Victoria Legrand to launch into “other people want to keep in touch.”

There are some interesting moments, such as the ghostly 'Rain In Numbers', recorded just as the band formed in 2005. The warped vocals and out of tune piano sound like a demo that would’ve made into a 'Hail To The Thief' deluxe edition (even if the piano line does veer quite closely to Coldplay’s “Clocks” at times).

Similarly “Saturn Songs” features sounds from deep space, which takes Beach House’s ethereal quality to, quite literally, a higher level. Their cover of Queen’s 'Play The Game' is a fun side of Beach House we rarely see, taking that bombastic rock song and giving it the Beach House stamp.

For the most part, though, 'B-Sides and Rarities' is little more than a curiosity for the die-hard fans that must have everything single piece of Beach House there is. Much of it is tracks that were left on the cutting room floor, and you can’t help but think they should’ve stayed there. Chris Taylor

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