New album meets expectations, reminds listeners of what attracted them in the first place
Dream pop, drone, ambient. All of these genres play a dangerous game, one that surfs the dividing line between the captivating and the simply boring. Although it may sound as if there are minimal sonic happenings, the listener must be aware that these artists are playing with the same binary that Brian Eno once claimed about ambient music: “It must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”
So how does Maryland duo Beach House deal with this fragile balance? By containing these dreamy tendencies inside an ever-stable, ever-consistent structure of pop sensibility. Beach House’s formulaic combination of drone-y repetition, effortlessly catchy pop melodies, minimalist keyboard beats, wistful lyrics, and a strong postrock sense of tension and release has created a machine like consistency, carrying the band through several consistent albums.
Consistency? Formulas? Repetition? You may be thinking, “How could this possibly stay interesting? Brian Eno must be snoozing by the first track.” Beach House’s new philosophy can be condensed into a single word: micro-experimentation. Yes, it is a conjunction, but who cares.
“Levitation,” the album’s first and best track finds Beach House at their most tender and minimal yet. The song maintains a single high drone throughout the entirety of its six minute stretch, and full percussion only makes itself heard at the 2:30 minute mark. “Sparks” has its flirtations with shoegaze, carried by a soaring riff that sizzles and burns like a (no pun intended) sparkler. “Space Song” is possibly their most bluntly dreamy title yet, with Victoria Legrand’s sparse but beautiful incantations repeated over Alex Scally’s bendy lead. “Beyond Love,” “10:37,” and “PPP” are all extremely well-crafted pop songs, not necessarily outstanding but impossible to skip, proving that Beach House just cruising is still crushing much of the dream-pop competition. “Wildflower” seems to be the only snoozer, prefacing the incredible tagteam duo of “Bluebird” and “Days of Candy.” Bluebird’s highlight is the unusual clicky beat, whereas “Days of Candy” brings a cyclical close to the album. The nostalgic, minimal, and crushingly slow song is the missing half to the album’s opener.
Lyrically, the album seems to have very little to do with depression. In fact, this album seems to be more about nostalgia for a first love, or falling in love again. This album seems to revolve more around shag carpet and kisses and warm lamps and Cherry Coke than depression.
As a listener, I tend not to have a great need for bands to stay consistent. I generally find it more entertaining for bands to try out weirder things and fail than have them churn out a bunch of similar, good, work. So herein lies my main complaint with Beach House — they’re playing it safe. Within the “Beach House sound” that they’ve established over the last few albums, they’ve created an original, interesting take on modern pop music. But on “Depression Cherry,” it feels as though they may be reaching the limitations of their own sonic establishment.
However, “Depression Cherry” does keep me (and probably most of their fanbase) hanging on. I believe in more from Beach House. Their discography is great, and Cherry is a confident, beautiful step in the right direction, but I still want something fantastic. Hurling themselves over the edge on their next effort just might make that fantastic unknown a reality. 8/10