Monday, August 24, 2015

Beach House - Depression Cherry Review

On Depression Cherry’s penultimate closer ‘Days Of Candy’ Victoria Legrand faces acceptance, mouthing away with moving sincerity that “the universe is riding off with you.” Not 40 minutes before, on the opener ‘Levitation,’ she shows pleasure in revealing that “there’s a place I want to take you, when the unknown will surround you.” It’s preparatory measures for the inevitable, an experience-crisis where the dawn of death looms overhead. What you do in-between the fabric of the unknown is up to you, for now Beach House is more than willing to give you the soundtrack. For their latest LP seems distant, a vessel of transportation to this other-world, a place where metaphorical lyrics reside as the prominent language and guitars laced with delay and reverb replace your tone-deaf footsteps. Beach House is, after all, Dream Pop, the utmost example of the genre at that, crafting albums curated for the interactive lull ever since their self-titled release in 2006 told of a Victorian-style home resting atop a hill. Their latest shows further mastery of evocation, reaching a place where the sadness protruding from their pre-Sub Pop days mixed with the absorptive production of their popular twin brothers collides in a melancholy trance of gorgeous temptation. 

Unfortunately for many, including myself to some degree, the lead single ‘Sparks’ was a bit of a red herring. Seemingly influenced by My Bloody Valentine and their guitar-drowning Shoegaze, ‘Sparks’ still stands as the album’s victorious declaration, a breathtaking collage marring guitars, drums, a bass, and Victoria’s dazing voice with ease. It may have mislead listeners, but what surrounds it is some of Beach House’s best Dream Pop to date. Instrumentally speaking, there’s nothing new. Crying guitars parade around bloopy synths and enchanting keyboard patterns, laced with Victoria’s hazy, parched voice. ‘Space Song,’ as implied, mimics the sadness of one floating in space, if that space was filled with the sounds it dearly lacks. A bridge that transcends time interrupts the track with bliss as eery synths bounce around Victoria’s subtle coos as she hums to “fall back into place.” On ’10:37’ LeGrand extends her vocal range to hauntingly glide over Beach House’s sparsely used synth beats, a resounding chorus sees the vocalist rifle through pitch shifts. And on ‘PPP’ an extended instrumental outro, bearing strong resemblance to ‘Take Care’ off Teen Dream, showcases Depression Cherry’s most beautiful moment, a mid-album climax of sorts that sends listeners off to the dreamlike world she envisioned. 

With these moments, and a handful more, Depression Cherry seems patterned to perfection as the foundation flows flawlessly between tracks. Much like how life is just a bevy of moments connected by strings, with highs and low scattered throughout, Beach House echoes the same sentiments with their latest, condensing the lulls to their bare minimum, placing appropriation of movements off feel alone. On ‘Bluebird’ LeGrand sounds disparaged, wondering “bluebird, where you gonna go now?” It isn’t until the follow-up, ‘Days Of Candy,’ that she receives her answer, mixing sadness with a bittersweet content. Beach House has never been known for their lyrics, a facet of their enigma that’s left unanswered album after album as the content held within goes without a clear stem. While stylistically not much has changed, never making direct declarations, washing emotional statements in a wave of metaphors, LeGrand seems her most intent on revealing a feeling, the distancing of oneself from reality, the escapism they’ve always bestowed finally cracking its concealed shell. Every song centers around a different state in time of someone slowly detaching from their world, culminating in their complete escape from Earth. The clarity shows itself upon repeated listens but still masks itself through Beach House’s heavily-obscured lyrics, it’s just for the first time they’ve centered on a prime subject. 

For the Indie darlings they are, Beach House has never been innovative, merely residing in a clear evolution. Depression Cherry’s base instrumentation takes heavily from Bloom, but loses the pristine brightness along the way. The small differences guiding each album is fascinating on its own, seeing a sound so concrete in Dream Pop shift subtly, revealing different textures or measures is, in a way, endearing. For Beach House though they’ve never been more ambitious than what’s seen on ‘Days Of Candy,’ as an 8-person choir joins LeGrand to welcome in a new age for this life-goer. It’s an impactful song that, after a committed listen to the LP, might draw some tears at its resounding conclusion on par with all of Beach House’s stunning closers. An interesting lack of structure is found here too, as is elsewhere on the LP like ‘Levitation,' where movements seep into one another without a chorus in sight, a progression that’s welcomed in Beach House’s discography which is often focused on catchy hooks to carry the songs. In fact, the songs that attempt catchiness here might be the biggest agitators to the blissful sound. Both ‘Wildflower’ and ‘Bluebird’ detract from the album as a whole with their narrow direction and simple layout, each abruptly cut off. 

Depression Cherry, even with its subtle faults that more or less whittle down to tracks just not as superior than their brethren, is another in Beach House’s stoic lineup of increasingly divine albums. With its focus on the beauty inherently held within sadness, as implied by the namesake, Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scally offset their sound with a personal approach that’s always been there just hasn’t been showcased. It’s quite shocking to see that, with the likes of Arcade Fire and Tame Impala expanding their range to something outside Indie, Beach House, with their staple of a sound, have become the defacto heads of ‘Indie.’ And for Indie in the year 2015 nothing gets more to the point than Depression Cherry, an album that focuses on escapism through a beautifully ornate lens and nothing more. The sounds spoiled throughout may hinge too greatly on Teen Dream and Bloom, and that’ll always be seen as a detractor for the group, but for artists so enveloped in their mystique the skill shone throughout make Beach House Dream Pop’s runaway torch-bearers. 


  1. What are your thoughts on "Thank Your Lucky Stars?"

    1. Really, really enjoy it. Probably my third favorite Beach House release although they all jump around from time to time. While I don't feel it's as epic as Depression Cherry, the songs are extremely good. I think it was just outside my top 10 for last year.

      Here's my review if that'll help