NBHAP Rating: 4,4/5
[one_half last=”yes”]BEACH HOUSE
Label: Sub Pop
03. Space Song
04. Beyond Love
09. Days of Candy
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
While the title of BEACH HOUSE‘s fifth album, Depression Cherry, might anticipate some deeply frustrated, melancholic work, the end result from the first track to the last is very much at odds with its moody title. BEACH HOUSE, the Baltimore duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, may well still befit the shoegazing dream-pop genre to which their earlier albums were attributed, but in this latest work they are offering something more intriguing as well. While 2012’s album Bloom expanded the duo’s sound to a maximum it also felt a bit over-the-top and basically ‘too much of everything.’ Thankfully, Depression Cherry takes two steps back and reduces the familiar formula of the band to its essential core elements.
The transcendent melodies of the opening track, Levitation, introduce the listener to the forceful tranquility that carries itself through the entire album. Rather than becoming dully repetitive, Levitation’s persistently continuous vocal loop integrates itself into the song as a whole – providing another instrument with which to play. The dreaminess of Levitation is interrogated by the distortion that begins their second track on the album, Sparks. Here, BEACH HOUSE are not just demonstrating their successful harnessing of a wide-ranging sound but also depicting the confusingly dreamlike quality that can be traced throughout the entire of Depression Cherry.
This LP is as hypnotic as their previous works but it rarely delves into tedium. In spite of their moody vibes, BEACH HOUSE have never found their sole platform in the darkened rooms of teenagers inclined to self-absorbed melancholia. Their focus on pared down yet powerful melodies leaves space for a fascinating range of emotions to shine through. The passion that is apparent in Beyond Love comes from expressing emotions through a careful balance of the abstract and the simplistic. As the song’s synths create a sensual vibe, the lyrics – sung in calm, breathy tones – offer a jarring alternative for interpreting the track: ‘They take the simple things inside you and put nightmares in your hands’.
BEACH HOUSE have been heralded for some time as an anachronism – more fitting of the haunting, transcendent pop of bands like SLOWDIVE and COCTEAU TWINS. But this interpretation is contentedly forgetting that their unashamed employment of emotional tones is a style being embraced by other modern artists such as ECHO LAKE and ST VINCENT. There influences are clearly numerous, but so are their artistic contemporaries. It’s really hard to not fall for the floating simplicity of a song like Bluebird that has Legrand guiding us through four minutes of sweetness. Everything feels at the right place in such a song, something we often missed on Bloom.
In spite of their growing success, the duo’s latest works are becoming increasingly intimate again. In an interview with Pitchfork, the duo declared their ability to expand the scope of their music while maintaining emotional depth: ‘My heart is full of love, but I don’t have an interest in love songs that much anymore,’ Scally says. ‘What we need are love and break-up songs for people living with war and disease,’ Legrand adds. ‘We need giant love songs.’ And there’s no better band to deliver them right now as this one.
is sitting in an equilibrium between the epic and the intimate. Even on their fifth album, BEACH HOUSE is still a band with ambitions for their sound.