Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally formed the exquisite Beach House back in 2005, and this compilation, the self-explanatorily titled B Sides And Rarities, rounds up every track that the duo have recorded that didn’t make it onto one of their six studio albums.
With the near death of the singles market in recent years and streaming in the ascendency, the concept of a ‘good B-sides band’ is one that is under threat. Just try to contemplate life without those amazing flipsides by The Smiths, The Cure or The Fall. Not a nice thought, is it?
So the good news is that Beach House can now join that esteemed list; the band have explained that they didn’t consider their B-sides to be inferior tracks, just tracks that didn’t quite fit cohesively onto an album, and the quality of material on show here more than bears this out.
‘Equal Mind’ for starters, noticeably has the sound of their arguably career-best album which it was left off (2012’s Bloom), the band explaining that it was too similar to the song ‘Other People’ from the same record. It’s a lovely track, nonetheless.
In 2015, Beach House surprised fans by releasing two albums within six weeks – Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars. Two songs from this session appear on the album: ‘Chariot’ is a typically beautiful example of the band’s signature sound, that is Legrand’s other-worldly vocal floating over sublime, blissed out instrumentation, (dream pop if you will), and ‘Baseball Diamond’ is presented in a rougher, home demo-like form.
The oldest song on the record is ‘Rain In Numbers’ which was recorded on an out-of-tune borrowed piano (before the band owned their own) and is the roughest sounding offering here by some distance, but has a definite naive charm. It appeared originally as a secret track on their eponymous debut album.
A real surprise here (unless you happen to own the charity AIDS Research album from which it came) is a cover of Queen‘s ‘Play The Game’, which is comprehensively Beach House-d. Meanwhile, the lush ‘Used To Be’ from 2010’s excellent Teen Dream is presented in its original 2008 single version and is an interesting take – much less polished and more earthy in texture. From the same album there is a ‘Cough Syrup Mix’ of ’10 Mile Stereo’, which has the whole song slowed down from the original recording and is a fascinating alternative to the LP cut.
Two songs from an iTunes session around the time of Teen Dream will be especially interesting to completists – a markedly different version of ‘Norway’ and a song that didn’t make that album at all, ‘White Moon’, which has been remixed as the band wanted to improve on the hastily prepared original session mix.
‘I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun’ was an unmastered internet freebie that is now mastered, while ‘Saturn Song’ apparently includes sounds recorded in deep space yet still has the Beach House trademark aesthetics and is a gently wonderful track.
In B Sides And Rarities, Beach House have offered up an intoxicating glimpse into their alternative universe, which is never less than engaging. If you didn’t like the studio albums, this album won’t win you over, but for fans new and old, it is a treasure trove of Baltimore’s finest’s lesser-known gems.
B Sides And Rarities is released by Bella Union on 30th June 2017.