Bloom is presented as an album which transcends the boundaries of genre, taste or subjectivity. It is described as a work of religious mission, opening the eyes of any who venture into it. But I’m indifferent to the quality of the music – which, in my opinion is undoubtable – but rather, I want to evaluate its influence. Many claim that no indie or mainstream music released by the turn of the decade a few months ago was left untouched musically by Bloom’s dream pop, which epitomizes the sound of Beach House, the album’s creator. They argue that it’s synth arpeggios, fuzzy yet discreetly mixed guitars and ethereal, psychedelic vocals layered upon dreamy atmospheric textures infiltrated the style of every 2010s artist, be it Lana del Rey or Arctic Monkeys. In this article, I will endeavor to question whether Bloom has really enjoyed the wide- ranging influence many maintain it holds.
Dream pop is not just a genre
Dream pop is not just a genre. It’s an all-encompassing description: Bloom truly sounds like a dream feels. The duo behind the album created a psychedelic, half-conscious atmosphere shoegazed (a production style which tries to merge and effect the instruments until the different instruments on a mix are almost indistinguishable) to the point that the texture feels barely there, and yet impenetrable as a solid wall of sound; an enormous, slow moving, audible cloud. Unusually, the album benefits from each song sounding similar enough that each track fades into another seamlessly, which only adds to the unavoidable dream comparison: as a dream is an ambiguous, surreal montage of faded events and ideas, as is Bloom, with hooks just catchy enough to be remembered the next morning.
The influence of this album is hard to deny. Just a few tracks in, I became immediately aware of the poppy, synth arpeggios which are ever present on Tame Impala’s Currents, released three years after Bloom. Then the ethereal, contralto female vocals, which is easily comparable to Lana del Rey, who broke into the mainstream just a few months after Bloom was released. The trippy, heavily reverberated instrumentation and vocals are evocative of hip hop artists like Travis Scott or Don Toliver, both of whom emerged years after Bloom. Equally, the jangly guitars on Wherever You Go could be lifted from Salad Days by Mac DeMarco, an album which came out two years after Bloom and carries its own momentous influence on the indie pop scene. But it’s not just the genre, production and instrumentation that exploded across the indie soundscape, its shrapnel penetrating every facet: an entire aesthetic was born which, if anything, is more influential than the music itself. Minimalism. Nostalgia. Pop-art. Emotion. A rich, retro colour scheme. At least a couple of these descriptors are evident, visually and audibly, in most indie artists you can name.
On the other hand, there are certainly arguments suggesting that the influence of Bloom has been exaggerated. One such argument is that Beach House simply weren’t that original or unique. Dream pop, even in its modern form, was invented decades before, in the late 1980s by prolific (and a little underrated in my opinion) bands including My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins. The latter’s most famous single, Cherry-Coloured Funk, could be a Beach House song itself – if only little more new-wave inspired. After all, almost all the characteristics of Bloom described above apply to it. If you want more recent comparisons, just look at the experimental, psychedelic pop phase of the late 2000s, boasting bands including MGMT, Yeasayer and Animal Collective. All feature the dreamy, ethereal sounds which fuse rock, pop and electronic more often associated with Beach House. What’s more, even Bloom’s revered aesthetic was not completely original: it took clear inspiration from album covers of indie rock and pop bands of the 2000s. The album cover for Bloom, its prime visual representation, is instantly evocative of that of the self-titled album by The XX, released in 2009, or Turn on the Bright Lights by Interpol, released 2002.
Is Bloom by Beach House overrated?
So, did Beach House simply steal their sound and aesthetic? Of course not. For the most part, Beach House reinvented dream pop for a new generation, with adding a new, even more ethereal touch which has placed its hand on every indie pop or rock record released since. Late 2000s psych-pop may belong in the same category of music as Bloom, but it’s no coincidence that Beach House are immediately distinct from their contemporaries, no matter the similarities. Beach House may not have invented the aesthetic they are today synonymous with, but they certainly continued a scarce trend and helped popularized it. Is the influence of Bloom overrated? Yes. But should it be discounted? Absolutely not.