In this information age of mass consumption and full access to the entire world of recorded music, most of us take for granted the service that artists provide to us lowly ‘consumers’. So when Beach House revealed ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’, the follow up to their fifth album ‘Depression Cherry’, merely a few weeks after it had been released, fans were suitably impressed and grateful for the kindness of bestowing almost two hours of new material onto the world. Due to nature of these releases therefore, and in the continuity in sound that the band have pursued since their conception, it is possible to treat both albums as parts of a unified whole, even despite the numerous differences.
“Fall back into place” sings Victoria Legrand; a pithy remark striking at the heart of her and bandmate Alex Scally’s ethos, returning every so often to cement themselves as a mainstay of the dream pop scene. Upon opening however, Legrand’s voice has evidently matured since their debut, as if she has acquired the wisdom that it seemed she so desired. Fortunately, this is a natural compliment to her ever-wistful lyricism, as she sings of the passing of time, criticises the vapid and even adopts a funereal tone in perhaps the band’s darkest song yet. As ever, this darkness permeates Beach House’s music, yet this time around, especially on the latter album, it appears to be heightened. Whether this is due to the apparently more “political” stance (perhaps due to the recent riots in their hometown of Baltimore?) or simply because the band has “no more interest in love songs” is unsure, but the bitter-sweetness resonates throughout, encapsulated by ‘Depression Cherry’s very own title.
Despite the thematic consistencies throughout the band’s lifetime however, one can separate Beach House into two different versions entirely through their drumming preference. Before signing to Sub Pop the band were stripped back, using clean guitars and digital drumbeats to create a minimal sound that evoked some half-remembered ballroom piece. With Teen Dream and Bloom however the band began to write larger, space-filling anthems. As they return to claim 2015 however, they can be loosely placed into the former category. After extensive touring with live drums, the band grew dissatisfied with “how much space it fills“, wishing to return to the minimal sound that enabled them to speak more directly. As such, the music within these two releases pursues the more ethereal tone that they originally pioneered, whilst still managing to create a large through the minimalism.
Consequently, Beach House’s niche has always been that of sounding like a band out of time. Whether this be down to the baroque style balladry (and 24-part choral harmonies), the Beatles influences, or simply by carrying the torch of the 80’s dream pop sound pioneered by bands such as Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil, Scally and Legrand seem to personify that perennial nostalgia for the music of the past. In doing so however, they craft distinctly modern pieces, as evident by the distorted, shoegazey lead single ‘Sparks‘. Sonically, their sound is as delicate as the ideas being expressed vocally, yet through the grounding organ drones and accompanying melodic guitar, they are able to present a broad emotional palette that captures the incommunicable.
Thus, by favouring the dream and eschewing the pop, Beach House have successfully established an emotional connection between the music and the listener across both works. Legrand’s beautifully non-specific lyrics allow one to find their own personal meanings, whilst the sound itself transports the listener to somewhere that feels close; like a return to a previous home. Although the impact of ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ may have been somewhat diminished by its sudden release, the two albums in their “return to simplicity” form a larger whole that showcases Beach House’s nuanced ability for pure expression. As Legrand says “it’s a lot easier to just feel it“.