Meet the Beach Girls. Ever since Best Coast‘s Bethany Cosentino and Beach House‘s Victoria Legrand each started fronting daydreamy indie-pop duos, they’ve made the sun, surf, and sadness of the coast feel so vivid, you’d think they grew up playing in Brian Wilson’s sandbox. Best Coast hail from L.A., and on their sophomore album, The Only Place, Cosentino perfectly captures the mythic California of backlit palm-tree postcards: ”We’ve got the ocean, got the babes/Got the sun, we’ve got the waves,” she brags on the bright, tourist-board-friendly title track. But she also makes California’s scuzzier side seem romantic, singing for all the lonely burnouts under the boardwalk. Blending doo-wop harmonies with girly-punk heartbreak, she’s a Patsy Cline for Valley girls in Ray-Bans.
Beach House come from Baltimore, but it sounds like the group recorded their third album, Bloom, in some Coney Island of the mind. The album’s hazy melodies suck you into their fog and wash over you in waves, vintage organs droning while Legrand sings about lapis lazuli and communing with the sea. As long as you can get down with her tribal-poncho musings, the music is haunting. This is atmospheric pop at its best: beautiful and stoned. Both albums: A-