Two songs into Beach House's fourth album, Bloom, there's a moment that jars the carefully crafted drama. As Daniel Franz's drum machine begins its stoic rhythm and Alex Scally's guitar darts around the edges of "Wild," Victoria Legrand intones, "My mother said to me that I would get in trouble/Our father won't come home 'cause he is seeing double."
With that rigid rhyme scheme and hint of everyday horror, these lines provide the most concrete imagery on Bloom, implying something like actual autobiography — an adult reminiscence of youthful peril. Ostensibly, "Wild" reveals something specific about its creators, which is unusual because the members of Beach House insist that they inhabit only the margins of their own songs.
The music is broadly romantic, the lyrics studiously unforthcoming. Few acts get as popular as Beach House — a best-selling album, laudatory reviews, festival appearances around the world, songs licensed to TV shows and movies — without giving more of themselves away.
Of course, Legrand won't say whether those lines were inspired by her own upbringing. Instead, she undercuts the details, injecting further ambiguity into the lyrics.
"It could be me or it could be you," she explains. "It could be both of us. It could be all of us. It's coming from a personal place. It's from me, from my insides. It doesn't get more personal than that. Throughout all four of our albums there are many things that have come from my life, but I choose to start there and go somewhere further. It's all about where it goes, not about picking apart one particular section."
All Legrand will reveal is that those lines resonate powerfully for her, even if she doesn't quite know what they mean:
"Those words came out immediately. They came out all together. I never changed them. Whether it was subconscious or whatever you want to call it, it was very natural. In French, there's a saying — c'est juste — which means neither right nor wrong, but fair. Or just. It just is. That moment feels like that."
The idea extends to nearly every aspect of Beach House's music, suggesting art made on instinct by musicians who see themselves as conduits for something larger. All of their albums, but especially Bloom, strive for something universal, a sound and a size and a sentiment that everyone can understand. To achieve that effect without sounding generalized or generic, they cobble together certain aspects of post-punk, post-rock, krautrock, new wave, New Romanticism, and American soul music, although they run it all through a hazy filter that allows them to avoid predictable nostalgia. Beach House doesn't wear ironic T-shirts or vintage glasses; they refuse to play to a particular moment in pop history. Their music sounds timeless, sceneless: of the moment more than of the past.
In fact, Beach House tries to stay out of the way as much as possible, forcing the listener to interact with the music undisturbed by artist ego or ambition. "That relationship between the listener and the music is a very precious thing," Legrand says. "I love to converse about music, but it's a Pandora's box. It's happened to me where I've found out something about a song I love, and it was almost like too much information. It was never the same to me. I know that it's impossible to control that, but I think that mystery is worth holding on to."
In fact, over the course of 10 songs, Bloom brokers the relationship between artist and audience, each song seemingly engaging the listener as the second-person "you." "Help me to make it, help me to make it," Legrand sings on the aptly titled "Myth." "How's it supposed to feel?" she asks on "Wishes." She's careful only to disclose "just enough to tell the story," as the chorus of "New Year" goes, and the music reinforces the mystery, swelling and fading dramatically like an earthier Cocteau Twins or a more pelvic Low.
Maintaining the mystery in their music has become more and more difficult with each album and with each tour, as the band notches more fans and greater exposure through television and movie spots. After the release of Teen Dream in 2010, "there was a little bit more exposure," Legrand says.
"We saw a direction we could go in, if we wanted, and we could have toured that album for two years. But we toured it for only one, which was for us totally reasonable. This wasn't the record of our lives. We're not done. We're ready to make another album. That's how we felt."
Building on the lush sound of Teen Dream, Bloom debuted in the Billboard Top 10, which even in today's market of depressed album sales was an accomplishment for such a determinedly press-averse band. Even as they continue to gain new fans and play bigger venues, Beach House is trying to think small, to hold on to some of that juste.
"No matter how many people like the band now, I still think about it as only 20 or so fans," Legrand says. "So it's still very personal, even if it's a much bigger audience."
Beach House, with Wild Nothing
Thursday, July 12th, 8 p.m.; $16