Beach House have been quite productive as a band; Depression Cherry is album number five, after their self-titled debut was released in 2006. Their first two releases were distinguished by autumn moods, from hazy pop to woody hymns and slow dirges. Beach House were soon mentioned in the same breath as artists like Nico and Cocteau Twins. They became even more diverse with their third LP, Teen Dream. Maintaining their signature keys and guitars along with Victoria Legrand’s unique vocals, they branched out into something a little more pop and even into some soul territory. It was to be their most accomplished album so far. Bloom, in 2012 continued this tradition of excellence.
Now it’s 2015 and we have Depression Cherry. The title suggests something both sad and sweet, and it’s a pretty good way to sum up their music. If there’s one thing you can say about Beach House it’s that they sound like forever and yet somehow ephemeral at the same time. It’s a wonderful feat.
When you can’t fully describe something you just say it’s creative. With Depression Cherry Beach House have created an album that just might leave you lost for words.
I don’t want to compare them to anyone. I want to view them as Beach House, a band that manages to turn a sunny name implying holidays and good times into a symbol for deep emotional exploration. Beach House have changed from album to album, every band does, but their shifts have been subtle, almost like what you might expect as you return to a slightly older beach house each year. With passing time it becomes a little dustier and weather beaten. Books on the shelves are tattier, a bit more sand has found its way in but the entire structure absorbs more and more poignant moments to commit to memory.
Lead single Sparks is so soaked in nostalgia it almost brings a tear to the eye. It’s like standing in the fog looking at an old photograph of the same place when the sun was out. If that sounds like a strange way to describe a song, take a listen and come back to me.
Space Song is somewhat lighter and sparser than others on the record. It’s a little dare I say spacey, but even with an upbeat tempo it still holds that haunting melancholy that a singular existence brings. Legrand sings “Tender is the night for a broken heart / who will dry your eyes when it falls apart?”
If it wasn’t clear already, there are few better exponents of the dream pop genre going around right now. That hazy, drenching wall of sound that overlaps and envelops the senses is irresistible. The droning, mourning keys combined with unclean guitars and similarly moody organs and synths makes for an existential, poetic experience that seems to demand it be taken alone. One can imagine putting this album on and wandering whatever town they happen to be in, enjoying their sad solitude.
Actually the album seems to revel in this oxymoronic feeling of “I’m sad and lonely but I’m happy about that.”
Legrand’s voice couldn’t suit the music better. She helps to evoke a dreamy thoughtfulness. Beach House effect a trance-like state upon the listener despite seeming to be so focused in their song construction.
Closer Days of Candy features many voices harmonising behind Legrand’s incredibly sad and beautiful croon as she sings “the universe is riding off with you” and that’s how it feels; we can never quite know what we’re supposed to learn but all the same we feel like we have learnt something.
It might seem then that could get lost in these songs but that isn’t the case. Beach House always know where they’re going and thus show you way but they allow you to meander, to patiently find your own way to their pre-determined destination. When you arrive though, they’re always leaving again, so you’re obligated to keep following. There’s no better way to experience music.
Opener Levitation sets us up for the whole album, that constant drone might disappear now and then as your thoughts fracture but it always comes back, steady as a pedestal fan. Legrand sings “there’s a place I want to take you.” With every note taking us higher we get further away from everything but are also afforded a clearer view. It’s a beach house; isolated, windy, dangerous, dreamy, slow, ponderous, surging. Beach House are masters of transport and on Depression Cherry they take us away again with nine tracks of what is probably their fullest, overflowing sound to date.