Boardwalk – Boardwalk

As dreamlike as this album sounds, in sentiment it closely resembles reality. Boardwalk’s vision of pop is bleary, strolling along with a careful patience that avoids getting too cerebral. There are no satisfying revelations to be found. Tightly wrapped solutions are difficult to reach, particularly when the problems are personal. In such situations, reconciling with the unfixable is often the only choice. And that’s about as true to life as music can get.

Newfound friends Mike Edge and Amber Quintero paired up last summer after sensing a shared creative spark, but the specifics of their initial encounter aren’t part of their press bio. We only know that they were introduced by mutual friends. If the LA duo announced they’d met at a Beach House concert, though, it’d be easy to believe. Whether or not they’d like to think so, Boardwalk’s debut LP is very much derivative of those dream-pop forerunners. Comparisons to Teen Dream, most notably, are inevitable.

The coupling of drowsy, layered analog and whispered vocals is clearly a borrowed motif, but at least it’s in skilled hands. Edge treats the production with care and Quintero’s croon is a mellow, saccharine vapor. The tones are warm and soothing. The sound isn’t so original, yet Boardwalk manages to offer a significant distinction. Lyrically, the duo keeps things incredibly simple. Titular lines are repeated frequently – like on “I’m Not Myself,” “What’s Love” and “Crying.” The themes aren’t delved into far beyond that, and the lack of artsy imagery and ambiguous metaphors is refreshing.

The prototype from which Boardwalk culls its sound is often convoluted by cryptic prose. Beach House, for one, has a penchant for figurative language. While dissecting pretty wordplay sometimes proves meaningful, reiterating basic truths –like “some things you can’t change” – can penetrate a person’s thoughts with equal potency. Boardwalk presents moods, most of them gloomy and melancholy, just as they are. They don’t attempt to understand them, as if to remind us how futile it is to even try. There’s plenty catharsis in accepting that.

[Stones Throw]