As each track cues up, you think you know what to expect. A resounding sound, you might call it, but always familiar—in the way the smell of ocean smells different at each shore, yet a comforting universality rests in the air in between. This is the way Beach House weasels itself into your bones with each coming album that steadily creeps towards something… more. With their newest blast in the face of swaddling noise, Depression Cherry, what exactly that “more” is something intangibly precise, yet staunchly fluid.
Phil Spector coined the phrase “wall of sound,” but for Beach House, it may be more appropriate to call it a “mind of sound,” due to the modestly beautiful fact that each meticulous, soaring note finds root in every nook and cranny of you, brainwashing you for the better.
Over their last few records, especially Bloom, the Baltimore-based duo comprised of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally built upon their hazy tunes with more oomph of bass and pow of drums, creating more punctuated and authoritative effects in their sound. Depression Cherry, however, marks a turn to the more subdued Beach House of yesteryear, like Teen Dream, but elevated with something we haven’t yet heard from them. I want to call it avant-garde, but that may reference something unreachable. No, I’ll call it oddity—the kind of oddity that makes you turn up your headphones just a wee bit louder to hear what intricacies really lie between the notes.
It all starts with “Levitation,” a too-perfect embodiment of the experience of listening to any of the dreamiest of dream pop Beach House has to offer. Indeed, just like you’d hope, Legrand’s trained vocals take their time, but also know when to dip in and out of focus to quickly lead you into a colorful dreamscape.
As usual, soaring synths and guitar play a key role in Depression Cherry’s full bodied-ness. Where an untrained ear may hear redundancy in their scope of work, there lie quirks and idiosyncrasies throughout their cohesion. Tracks like “Sparks” introduce a wholly unique take that makes me question the band’s intent on making Depression Cherry a return to the simple—and I mean that in a good way. Looping background vocals and a ripping electric guitar bring out a surprising rambunctiousness that is extremely refreshing for them, as if the somewhat reserved nature of Legrand and Scally was briefly peeled away for some craved catharsis.
Yet, still, it is in their simplicity that makes your atoms and fibers move with emotive consent. Listening to the 80s-tinged “Beyond Love” with a good set of headphones is enough to get you through any stormy occasion. Legrand’s ability to fluctuate her voice, pulling you through like a loyal dog on a leash, and then suddenly let you off to go running through fields of green, is unmistakably important and unmatched.
Then we have tracks like “10:37” which offers a compartmentalized take on Legrand’s lush quality, breaking up the usual flow of harmony with more eccentric flare. The song flirts with simultaneous androgyny and femininity, as her voice floats down in a waterfall effect to the mechanical tick of a drum—an engrossing effect to be sure.
The latter half of Depression Cherry then trickles into that promised land of breeziness that can easily be embraced, as long as you are ready to be embraced back. From “PPP” to “Wildflower,” Beach House doesn’t let you walk away without considering each and every melody with equal fervor, for each has been crafted to create, again, that mind of sound that is so inextricably theirs. To end on the melancholic flight that is “Days of Candy” is simply the digestive component to the already plush soundscape you just traversed.
And then, forty-five minutes later, you find yourself waking up from a stupor of guided buoyancy. If anyone, like I, was concerned that eventually Beach House would fall into a pit of stale repetition, then sleep well tonight knowing that Depression Cherry is indeed an evolution of musical thought and craft. Can’t wait till the next one.
DEPRESSION CHERRY is now available on iTunes and in stores near you.
BEACH HOUSE comes to The Fonda theater Dec. 9-12th to completely sold out shows. Sorry.
This review is dedicated to the memory of Hannah Copeland Neal.