Beach House has always been a band that embraced the quieter, calmer side of life as well as fantasy, and over the span of their last four albums, came to physically and emotionally define dream pop as a genre and solidify a space within it. Their music flounces beautifully and breathes deeply, expressing everything from sadness to jubilation equally through lush, textured tones. On their heavier fifth album Depression Cherry, one starts to wonder whether or not this alluring aesthetic can hold up for this long, and discovers that stunning beauty, along with everything else, also has the tendency to fade with time.
Bloom was an album that absolutely deserved all the affection it received, if not more. It was edgy, but still passionate; hazy, but still effervescent. It was everything you could have ever wanted in an explicitly dream pop centered album, and, if you’re anything like me, “Myth” was your anthem for quite some time. I had never heard anything like it, and everything from the swelling instrumentals to Victoria Legrand’s voice made me embrace dream pop worlds more than before. That was way back in 2012, however, and times have changed, but, surprisingly, the music hasn’t. One half of the Baltimore based duo, Alex Scally, has even mentioned in interviews that he hates when bands change between albums, seeming to hint at the nature of tracks and albums as a whole. As far as change, Beach House haven’t altered much of their sound, and upon hearing Depression Cherry for the first time, it’s even clearer. Opener “Levitation” is aptly titled, considering the almost weightless quality the shimmering, opera chorus-like synth and enraptured sense of being. Its pace immediately lets listeners know that this particular album is more decadent, more caloric than it’s predecessors, and darker, as if that wasn’t obvious from the album’s title. The illusion of these empty calories comes from tracks like “Sparks” and “Beyond Love,” where the band ironically introduces distorted guitars and instrumentals, hard and jagged in comparison with Legrand’s soft vocals. Perhaps it was an attempt at shoegaze – which, in hindsight, isn’t too far off from their current genre – but the execution sounds too tired for it to be believable. That lethargic feeling in the instrumentals also tends to bleed into the vocals, which take a backseat to become more synonymous with trance and hypnotism – a bit disappointing considering Legrand’s incredible vocal abilities. However, the new techniques that are heard in stunners like “PPP” and “Wildflower” are absolutely breathtaking, and almost pays homage to their former selves. However, one wishes that the band would take more risks, and perhaps enhance their current sound rather than stretch it out to encompass more emotional ground.
There’s a massive difference between the illusion of slowing down time and stopping it completely, and there are times in Depression Cherry where it was the latter; where it seemed perpetually trapped within itself and forced to use the same techniques over and over. However, Beach House is a band that knows their strengths and weaknesses incredibly well, and it does show in a few gorgeous tracks. The solidity of the album as a whole is definitely something worth noting, and in the end, the impenetrable gauze that they wrap around themselves has held up to the test of time.
photo by Shawn Brackbill