Release Date: Aug 28, 2015
Record label: Sub Pop
The usual criticism with Baltimore duo Beach House is that their sleepy dream pop doesn't exactly grab you by the throat, that album after album, their goal is to simply put you to sleep. It's is a tough thing to argue: Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand have always kept the same minimal set-up, making music that's heavy on pensive lyrics and placid, Charmin-soft production. Beach House's critics will probably struggle to hear much of a difference on the band's fifth album, Depression Cherry, but their fans should feel right at home.Scally and Legrand are meticulous about their music, often focusing on how they made the music during interviews instead of sharing what it's all about.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Beach House are an American institution. This is their fifth album in 9 years, and in that time they've grown from much-hyped newcomers to an integral part of modern American music, with their distinctive sound being borrowed by sources such as Tame Impala and Wolf Alice in the last few months alone.
On Depression Cherry, Beach House’s fifth album, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally bravely include a word that despite the efforts of many, still and disappointingly remains somewhat of a taboo. Yet when a band puts the word depression into the title of their record, it needs to reflect the seriousness of the condition and ensure that it doesn’t imply decline or stasis, but can have a happy ending. Thankfully Beach House pull-off both these things perfectly here.
If you view a band as a long-term artistic project, then Beach House have always been perfect. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have done everything right: They’ve found the ideal balance of dim, lush tones; their sound progresses at a graceful, even clip; they leave just the right amount of time between albums. Even their name is perfect: Beach houses are rickety, inviting spaces that, by nature of their existence, live outside of time.
Review Summary: We all float down here.Beach House have always been more about a feeling than any particular message – like dream pop in general, theirs is an oddly non-specific ethos, powerful sounds evoking . . . something? The beauty is in filling in the blanks. It’s not a surprise that ….
Beach HouseDepression Cherry(Sub Pop)Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally like to take their time to get where they’re going. The Baltimore dream-pop duo doesn’t let their music rise much higher than 120 BPMs; their graceful dirges, ballads and waltzes are seemingly meant to accompany the comfortable pace of a lazy walk on an autumn afternoon. You wouldn’t think that this would have a particularly wide appeal, but their last two albums have since entered the ranks of Sub Pop Records’ best-selling albums of all time.
The title of Beach House’s fifth album has the potential to set alarm bells ringing: is this a band in transition from being dreampop’s modern-day standard bearers to unwitting self-parodists? It turns out not. Depression Cherry may proudly adhere to every fuzzy touchstone of the genre, but it’s also a record on which every subtle chord shift and breathy sigh feels considered. It lacks the bigger pop moments of their last two albums, Bloom and Teen Dream, yet by paring down the drums and allowing themselves to play more quietly, the Baltimore duo somehow increase their impressive ability to sound like they’re whispering each song directly into your eardrum.
It's easy for artists in any medium to be seduced into believing their latest project must be more elaborate than what came before. On Depression Cherry, however, Beach House reject the notion that bigger is inherently better. Where Bloom took their crystalline dream pop to lavish heights, these songs revisit the simpler approach of Beach House and Devotion.
Virtually every interview that’s been published about Beach House since their inception in 2004 has this moment of intense awkwardness, when Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally balk at the exercise of trying to translate their music into words. A recent profile describes their struggle to even explain the title of their new record, Depression Cherry: They “decline to explain, then explain that it can’t be explained.” It’s almost just as well that the Baltimore-based duo have a hard time talking about their music. The soupy fog of stoned soughs, rustling slide guitar, and general discontent always seemed to reside in a realm that’s pre-language anyway.
Beach House’s 2012 album, Bloom, was the moment the US duo made the transition from well-regarded cult favourites into the indie major leagues. It was a record that embodied the characteristics that had served the pair well thus far (bittersweet and glacial vocals, unhurried melody lines and lush soundscapes) while making everything fuller and more potent than before. As Depression Cherry’s opener, Levitation, slinks into view, all pulsing synths and understated drum machines, it’s apparent that Beach House are continuing with their steady progress.
It’s only been three years since Beach House last released an album, but music changes so quickly that it seems like the Baltimore duo had been gone for ages. At any rate, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are back now with their fifth full-length album, a collection of nine songs that are more intimate than the music on their past few records. That’s not coincidence: as Beach House grew into bigger stages and played for larger crowds, the duo’s sound expanded, too, and the somewhat more streamlined aesthetic of Depression Cherry is their reaction.
Oh, the burden of expectations. After a promising self-titled debut, and then two consecutive knockouts in 2010's Teen Dream and 2012's Bloom (which must go on the shortlist of most beautiful albums of the 21st century), one could forgive Beach House a clunker. Depression Cherry (despite one of the worst album titles of the 21st century) is no such thing.
It’s no surprise that on Depression Cherry, Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand – aka Beach House – have concerned themselves with the inexorable passage of time, and life itself. As a duo, their ten years have yielded five albums of growing magnificence, music so lush and graceful you want to sink into it and let your muscles float away from your bones. They’ve changed, while not really changing at all; a steady arc of critical acclaim, growing fan worship, and a steely resistance to over-commercialisation while hewing close to their self-declared ideas of authenticity.
"Myth" was the track that really won me over with Beach House. It got me digging back into their catalog and really grew my appreciation for their dream-pop craft. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally really, for all intents and purposes, have found a way to sink their teeth into that 'hipster' (no disrespect meant), shoegaze, trippy mainstream aspect of the genre - which I respect given their age, ambition and determination.
Around the time of Beach House’s sparse, rickety début in 2006 and during the early years of their career, the marketplace, or at least the musical universe of the indie blognoscenti, at times seemed awash with kindred duos, peddling a certain brand of hazy, Instagram-filtered dreampop. Yet while many fell by the wayside, or at least failed to live up to early promise, this Baltimore duo have only grown in stature and acclaim, blossoming over the run of albums from their second, the crisp, elegiac Devotion, to 2012’s opulent and appropriately-entitled Bloom. Although the themes and sounds that singer/keyboard player Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally deal in have largely remained the same, what has been immediately noticeable as they have moved from each album to the next is a widening of the sonic palette, from the skeletal drum machine, organ and slide guitar of Beach House and Devotion to the addition of live drums on the mesmerising Teen Dream and Bloom’s spotlighting of synthesiser and Scally’s sparkling arpeggios.
Over four alluring albums, Beach House have managed the rare trick of evoking bliss and loss in equal strength. Guitarist Alex Scally's extravagant melodies bloom slowly over grooves that pulse like waves; singer Victoria Legrand's vocals echo Fleetwood Mac's lush folk rock, Cocteau Twins' surreal dreams and Nico's spooky drama. The Baltimore duo's fifth album sticks to that signature sound, and go figure: A formula that might seem limiting feels instead like it can contain entire worlds.
Bit-by-bit, Baltimore duo Beach House have gone from niche concern to a band knocking on arena doors. And they’ve done this without making any serious, compromising shifts. Absorbing electric guitars swim around empty space, organ lines swarm the senses and Victoria Legrand brings a misty, distinctive vocal - that’s Beach House. What was notable in 2012’s ‘Bloom’ however - and even more so in predecessor ‘Teen Dream’ - was Legrand and Alex Scally’s ability to bring a pop sensibility.
Since Beach House’s 2010 breakout Teen Dream, vocalist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally have shown an affinity for striking patterned album sleeves. That particular record flaunted a nearly imperceptible cream-on-white zebra print, and its follow-up, 2012’s Bloom, featured a dramatic shrinking black-and-white polka dot pattern. Still, neither of those designs proved as appropriate for the music contained within as that of their highly-anticipated fifth album Depression Cherry.
Reliability is seldom given its due in art. The idea of the bloody-minded maverick is deeply rooted, particularly in the creative thickets abutting the mainstream. (Blame Bob Dylan.) Creativity, in this discourse, is all about risk-taking; switching it up. Spare a thought, then, for Beach House, Baltimore purveyors of gauzy and somnambulant pop.
Unlike most bands, Beach House, emerged 10-odd years ago fully formed: Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scally's diaphanous dream-pop was immediately distinctive, freeing them to finesse it on subsequent albums without ever having to worry they'd be mistaken for anybody else. In this regard, “Sparks,” the lead single from Depression Cherry, is all the more surprising. With its blotches of melodic feedback and ghostly, muted vocals, the song sounds like nothing the band has ever done before.
Since the release of their self-titled debut in 2006, Baltimore duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have been an unlikely success story. Nothing about Beach House’s early albums or performances indicated the wide appeal that their music would end up finding. The songwriting was mercurial, introspective, and emotionally complex. But with Teen Dream and Bloom, the pair’s third and fourth albums, Beach House rose to their burgeoning popularity.
“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” Not our words but those of jazz colossus Charles Mingus, which ring especially true in the case of Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House.Nostalgic for the vanished environs of Kerouc’s America, Beach House’s magical sound is a tribute to simpler times. Over the course of four albums, the band have illuminated eternal truths about love and loss with just the aid of some organ drone, Alex Scally’s picked, golden-age guitar and Victoria Legrand’s otherworldly vocals. But with simplicity comes repetition.
It can be difficult to focus on the subtleties within a Beach House album—and that’s not really a dig. The Baltimore duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally is so delicate and cryptic in the weaving of its dream-pop tracks that even straightforward key changes float by unnoticed, like the dried seeds of a dandelion in the breeze. And Legrand’s smoky, drawling voice—which is very often layered and swallowed by itself like a Russian nesting doll—doesn’t so much escort you through a hypnotic melody of rich organ and guitar delay as it provides you with a feather-stuffed pillow and hand-knitted quilt to take a comfy nap inside of one.
On their fifth album, Baltimore dream pop two-piece Beach House refine their sound by paring back to the essentials: strong, foregrounded melodies beautifully sung by Victoria Legrand floating over Alex Scally's billowy cloud-bed of guitar reverb, an undisruptive backbeat and synthetic pulses. The lyrics are as intimate as the sound - "Tender is the night for a broken heart / Who will dry your eyes when it falls apart," Legrand soothingly sings on the excellent Space Song. Scally's guitar lines regularly punch through Legrand's organ hum, zipping vertically and chiming, as on standout Beyond Love.
Beach House’s music is a lucid daydream, existing in a world that parallels yet differs from your own in countless ways. The air is a bit thicker. Gravity is a bit stronger. Colors are a bit richer. Emotions run deeper. Everything slows down, not quite full speed. It is all recognizable, but ….
The tricky thing about mood music is that you have to be in the mood for it. On its swirling, densely layered fifth album, “Depression Cherry,” Baltimore pop duo Beach House — Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally — establish a number of moods across nine tracks. But whether the tempo has urgency or moves more languidly, the entire set remains in a low gear.
Dream-pop is a set of musical values, and to some extent it has a musical grammar. If it didn’t, nobody would mention Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star and Angelo Badalamenti soundtracks every time Beach House makes a new record. But dream-pop is less a genre than a matrix of powerful sounds with nonspecific emotional associations. The sounds are static, consonant harmonies and long tones and slow tempos.
Alex Scally, right, and Victoria Legrend of the group Beach House are shown in New York in 2010. Beach House's music can build ever so slowly to majestic heights, and sometimes it sounds like a merry-go-round built for toddlers, spinning in lazy circles so as not to frighten the kids. The Baltimore-based duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally hasn't varied the template much over the last decade, with 2010 breakthrough "Teen Dream" serving as a peak moment of sonic mountain-building.