Beach House is the name of the band, but “Bleak House” is more like it. The duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally specializes in beautiful but slightly unsettling music built on slow drumbeats, droning organs, moaning slide guitar, swirling synths, and Legrand’s austere vocals. But, like Mazzy Star or Nico, to whom they’re often compared, Legrand and Scally seem cold and distant in a way that is, paradoxically, warm and inviting. Their music seems designed for playing in a cozy bedroom on a stormy winter night. (Or perhaps for an artsy indie-movie soundtrack: See the duo’s David Lynch–like video for “Master of None” or the Wim Wenders–like video for “Used to Be.”)
Beach House isn’t just about atmosphere. The duo appeared fully formed with their 2006 debut album, and Legrand and Scally have only grown as songwriters since then. Lyrics such as “Man, you got a lot of jokes to tell/ So you throw your baby’s banners down the well” (from the exquisite “Gila” on last year’s Devotion) are as enigmatic and evocative as the music. And, despite all the droning and swirling in place, the best Beach House songs have a beginning, middle, and end. The recent single “Used to Be” is something you could sing to yourself in the shower. It wouldn’t have to be a moody shower on a cold night either. The song is full of Beach House’s trademark sounds, but its major-key melody is actually kind of uplifting. That is, until you notice that Legrand is singing, “It’s always good to see you again/ Even if it’s coming to an end.”
The Walkmen also perform.
BEACH HOUSE, Belly Up Tavern, Monday, January 19, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $16; $18 day of show.