Beach House have managed to build a legendary catalogue of mystifying, awe-inspiring music thats strength lies both in its sameness and its subtle maturation. They perfected the wheel years ago; the thrill has been in hearing them play with its impeccable form, popping on some spinning rims or knocking out spokes as needed.
And so, if we're going by score cards and expected patterns, the massive double album is arriving right on time. The 18-track, 85-minute Once Twice Melody is designed, in the grand legacy of major albums from major bands, to be Beach House's crown jewel.
In the middle of the 19th century, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr coined the term "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" or, for you Anglophiles out there, "the more things change, the more things remain the same." Quite how this fairly unremarkable Parisian saw Beach House coming is something that it seems we'll never understand. But, when it comes to explaining the trajectory of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally's journey until this point, there simply isn't a more accurate phrase to use. The entirety of Beach House's back catalogue exists as a set of slightly different immaculately conceived sculptures, each carved from the same stone, using the same tools, by the same people.
The hazy shade of winter brings us Beach House's most ambitious release to date in Once Twice Melody. Released in chapters from November to February, there has been ample time to parse through the bulk of the album that spans 18 tracks and is nearly 90 minutes in length. Strewn with images of mysterious women adorned with diamonds, lace, and sugared eyelids, the album takes a step away from the narrative of the prior album, 7.
Sporting moments that rank alongside their best work, the Baltimore duo’s eighth album adds a compelling new organic ingredient to their sound Ever since the breakout success of 2010's modern classic Teen Dream, Baltimore dream pop maestros Beach House have released a steady stream of accomplished, highly atmospheric albums without ever really quite scaling the lofty peaks of their most universally praised record. The duo's most recent outing, 2018's 7, was probably their most muscular, confident effort yet, but still left the listener with a slight sense of a band stylistically treading water, albeit often beautifully so. Once Twice Melody, Beach House’s eighth album, doesn't completely dispel that view, but its best tracks come close to matching the near-perfection of Teen Dream, while also introducing some welcome new ideas.
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As Beach House, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally make dream pop for a generation who like their downtime narcotic and their depression nostalgic. We know them a little too well by now: they've wormed their soundscapes into every other maudlin Western bedroom, bland enough to be universally palatable yet pretty enough to anchor even the most enfeebled attention spans. They came close to perfecting that balance on 2015's Depression Cherry, but 2018's 7 upended their methodology from top to tails and shook from its pockets a stash of tools that once seemed to exist in a different universe: dynamic mobility, noirish hints of darkness, meaningful lyricism, vitalised percussion, and textural flair as a means to a greater end.
A song called Modern Love Stories closes out this 18-track double set and successfully reemploys the time-honoured Beach House technique of splicing together two distinct song ideas: transporting us suddenly from a Secondhand Daylight outtake to the introduction to Space Oddity. The Baltimore duo's masterful fusion of organic and synthetic textures makes each song a diaphanous little earworm of delight: on Runaway the aerated guitar and celestial Moog interlude; the autumnal chamber backing on Sunset; Victoria's echoed vocal at the beginning of Only You Know;
the ghostly lullaby which laces the Badalamenti-flavoured Through Me.
As well as drawing more liberally from the likes of My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins, this time they've woven into the mix some 80s synth-pop motifs (Masquerade could be Duran Duran circa 1982), but the overall effect remains as bewitching as ever.
Drenched in dreamy synthesisers and melancholia, Baltimore duo Beach House's 'Once Twice Melody' is a double album in four chapters. With the first part released back in November 2021 and the last in February 2022, Beach House broke apart their album, perhaps to give time to reflect on each quarter. Though this was certainly the case, this experience of the album is temporary, and when treated as a heavy double album, the lines between the chapters blur.