Release Date: May 11, 2018
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Over six albums, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally of Beach House have offered the same enticement: There's a place I want to take you; help me to name it. The implicit promise has always been that if you opened up entirely, gave enough of yourself, the nameless sensation they evoke would finally come into focus, and the shapes moving beneath the surface of their music would resolve. You would finally understand if you came closer, stayed longer, looked deeper.
Every Beach House album release is a happening. For fourteen years, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have consecutively been able to transcend themselves in the ways of approaching their music, for many considered one of most vulnerable and rawest forms of art. Tirelessly working to achieve their musical precision, the one we now immediately denounce as 'the Beach House sound', and a refined aesthetic, the duo persevered and quickly became one of the most popular active and touring bands in the world.
Seventh Swell. On their latest record, Beach House have gone above and beyond in reinventing themselves. Prior efforts such as Teen Dream and Depression Cherry found the duo delving deeper and deeper into faux-shoegaze indulgences and further away from the basest of dream pop inspirations. 7 represents a fresh start for the group, who've already established themselves as the critic's indie darlings, and into a vaguely harsher realm of distorted synth 'n' guitar discovery.
Generally speaking, Beach House have never been the sort of band who are difficult to second guess. Look at it from the perspective of the Baltimore duo; they struck upon a rough diamond on their self-titled debut, smoothed the edges off on follow-up Devotion, and then converted it smoothly into gold on their standout so far, 2010's Teen Dream. Nobody else does dream pop quite like them; between Alex Scally's sumptuous guitar parts and Victoria Legrand's Paris-jazz-club vocals and undulating synth lines, they'd carved out a formula that they'd have been foolish to set aside in the interests of constant reinvention.
In poetry, sonnets have a feature called a volta, the Italian word for turn. The volta usually occurs just over halfway through the poem, after the eighth line of 14, and it marks a change in tone or mood as the poet gathers their thoughts on the subject matter and begins to drive their idea home. There’s something like a volta in the seventh album from Beach House; it arrives almost exactly halfway through Dive, the central track, and it’s the moment when the song accelerates, growing from a series of echoing chords and taking on a dense drumming pattern and jagged guitar line that recall early New Order.
While Beach House's sound has always focused on hypnotic melodies and Victoria Legrand's rich vocals -- and likely always will -- they've found different ways to explore this potent combination on each album. Legrand and Alex Scally delivered some of their most dramatic experiments on 2015's Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, which presented a surprising amount of sides to their music even as they stripped it down to the basics. If possible, they're even more committed to change on their aptly named seventh album.
Beach House have spent the last decade-plus making music that hums with feverish intensity even at its most quiet. The Baltimore duo's albums inspire cult-like devotion from fans, which makes sense: Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are less a band than a two-person mystical order, endlessly searching for new secrets in the same sacred texts, from Cocteau Twins to the Beach Boys. It's a subtle sound, better suited for insomniac nights than festival stages, but don't let that lull you into missing the point.
Beach House make it sound so easy. The Baltimore duo have yet to release a bad song, and their core sonic blueprint — Victoria Legrand's sonorous vocals and purring organ, Alex Scally's twinkling guitars — seems bulletproof. But as anyone who has tried it knows, songwriting is far from easy, so Beach House's consistent brilliance is truly remarkable. Their seventh album keeps their streak alive.
And yet, when a new Beach House record comes along, it's easy to find yourself playing Judas. Pedalling a brand of dreamy soundscapes, since their 2006 self-titled debut, nothing much has changed. Each album has followed a pretty similar path. But even so you still find yourself lost in their shimmeringly narcoleptic worlds.
To download, click "Share" and right-click the download icon | iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS The Lowdown: After settling into a comfortable groove on their last couple of albums, Beach House decided to shake things up by parting ways with producer Chris Coady, who had worked with them on every record since Teen Dream, and working on their seventh record with Peter Kember of Spaceman 3 & Sonic Boom. The result of this shift is the sprawling adventure that is 7, imbued with a restless energy and excitement that marks a clear departure from the familiarity of their recent work and their most compelling record in years. The Good: Beach House embrace a messiness more akin to coloring outside the lines than a complete deconstruction as the songs on 7 are as artfully crafted as always.
Where many purveyors of psychedelic music engulf themselves in indulgent meanderings, Beach House keeps the 11 tracks from their seventh album, the aptly titled 7, taut and lean. The duo never buries their music beneath layers of synthesizers, nor do they lose themselves in fussy walls of sound, always keeping their feet firmly on the backbeat’s terra firma. 7 kicks off with “Dark Spring,” whose industrial-strength drumbeat solidly underpins Victoria Legrand’s spectral vocals.
Across their six studio albums, Beach House have become one of indie’s most dependable acts, and on ‘7’, that continues. Dependable is hardly the most exciting word to throw around to describe a band, granted, but there's something about the pair's music that will always retain its brilliant key components, and never stray too far from the path. It seems that every time Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally pick up their instruments, a gorgeous, irreplaceable atmosphere washes over anything they play, and on album seven, it's lost none of its potency.
Well, we didn’t get the Cocteau Twins reunion we wanted. They were announced for Coachella 2005 but it never materialized. Latent band issues tend to flair up around reunions and they make for painful rollouts – see any article on the Smashing Pumpkins this year. But maybe we got something better.
If you've ever stared out of the window on a rainy Sunday night and felt everything slow down, momentarily alone with the street lights and that rich, neon melancholy that feels so distant from the world of traffic updates and tax returns, wondering where the twilight world hides when the sun comes up again, you may have briefly shared the spirit of Beach House's seventh album. Its opening numbers are gorgeous in their own right, perhaps more shoegaze than dream-pop this time out, with 'Lemon Glow' still sounding like it's going to make an incredible hip-hop sample one day. But it's the spread of tracks that run from the morphine swell of 'L'Innconue' to the heartbroken fantasy of 'Last Ride' that overwhelm here, their cumulative grandeur almost more than the heart can bear in one sitting.