Intimate, wistful, and ephemeral, Beach House‘s fifth studio album reminds me of the high school homecoming I never had.
And, in a way, a homecoming is exactly what Depression Cherry is. Beginning with their self-titled debut in 2006 and possessing a sound comparable to the haunting murmur of an antique music box, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have consistently expanded the scope of their songs, steadily growing in force and fervor to burst at the seams with Bloom (2012). Now in 2015, the duo have gone back to thei roots, foregoing the boundless radiance of their recent record in favor of a return to the dim-lit nostalgia evoked by their earlier material.
In a press release, Beach House describe the move as a “return to simplicity, with songs structured around a melody and a few instruments, with live drums playing a far lesser role.” They acknowledge that their past two records “drove [them] towards a louder, more aggressive place,” and that with >Depression Cherry, they “continue to let [themselves] evolve while fully ignoring the commercial context in which [they] exist.”
“Levitation” greets you like an old friend: the fade in of the ever-present synth sets the dreamy tone, and minimal percussion and the low buzzing of Scally’s guitar accompany Legrand’s ethereal vocals as they lull you closer towards the “place [they] want to take you.” Lead single “Sparks” builds on that foundation as it brings you deep into a midsummer haze with layers of sublime chanting, fuzzed-out organ, and a distorted lead riff. With a sense of celebration, these two tracks evoke memories of the carefree days of youth.
“Space Song” promises listeners the classic romantic melancholia that Beach House is so well-acquainted with. Its soft underlying drum machine, strumming bass, and resonating synth supplement somber lyrics that weave together images of small-town heartache and young love.
As is the case with any dream however, the joyousness in the earlier songs is fleeting; “PPP” reinstates Depression Cherry’s namesake, eliciting feelings of hesitation, apprehension, and heightening tension. Legrand sings “Yet I’m tracing figure eights / On ice in skates so well.” Scally’s swaying arpeggio and the weeping chorus in the long outro seem to convey that everything cracks and falls apart in the end.
“I know it comes too soon,” sings Legrand on “Days of Candy,” the final track of the record, as if in admittance of its short length. With the mournful hymn and ghostly singing, the song brings the album to a close and declares all its themes. Depression Cherry is defined by temporality and tranquility; old and new styles blend with subdued instrumentals, which serve to bring you on a journey across Beach House’s evolution as a band venturing into new territory, without forfeiting the familiar styles that distinguish them.
Depression Cherry is out August 28, 2015 via Sub Pop; Beach House will appear live at The Fillmore December 17-19 as part of their current US and European tour.
Article by Nicholas Troughton