Album Review: "7", Beach House
Beach House are a dream-pop and neo-psych duo with a special place in my heart, made up of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. What can I say? They’re a group that actually lives up to the hype. They’ve come out with some of the most impressive records I’ve heard in the genre; see Devotion’s warm, reverb-soaked melodies, Teen Dream’s sophisticated progressions, or Bloom and Depression Cherry’s especially captivating song topics. They tend to return to themes like spirituality, death, and burning desire for another person; the combination of the sonic palette and lyrical themes puts this intense feeling into my stomach I can’t explain; they have a certain charm I’m unable to find anywhere else.
The group was lucky enough to find their niche early on, having time to perfect it more and more through time. All their output can be appreciated for subtle differences from each other. 7 is heavier, more atmospheric, and a bit more intricate than their past work has been, and is Beach House showing their mastery of the medium.
The record’s opener, Dark Spring, has a mystical shoegaze sound with a driving guitar lead that also works in dreamy elements we’re used to hearing from Beach House. It sets the tone of the album by describing an atmosphere instead of something tangible, and is incredibly entrancing all the way up to the heavy wailing tones it fades out with. Its progression into Pay No Mind is easily one of the album’s most seamless moments. The slower tempo is so refreshing after the gritty note it began with, and has this droning distortion and dreamy guitar lead that’s simply gorgeous. The songwriting is elegant and sophisticated, with a sense of intense, unadulterated love in lines like baby at night when I look at you, nothing in this world keeps me confused. If Dark Spring feels like a My Bloody Valentine song, this is the Slowdive song. (more)
Lemon Glow is a perfect example of how reverb works to the group’s benefit; it’s a smooth, neo-psychedelic trip that feels like a sonic translation of how easily love can creep through you and take you over. It slowly builds, adding these dazzling chords and simple imagery to give a transcendent listening experience. I can’t think of any line better than candy colored misery, the color of your mind to sum up Beach House as a whole. L’Inconnue comes in with a wave of chilling vocal layers next that sound almost angelic. It’s dominated by this distorted melody with sharp guitars and vast layers of ambience. It rips into my heart every time when the hi-hats come through, aaaaaa.
Drunk In LA has some of the most heartbreaking lyricism of the record, and describes something we all seem to relate to more and more as we grow up: losing friends. The person involved is left with nothing but memories, sits alone and has no one to make the stories come alive with anymore. Isolation is a scary beast, and has so much power to damage; you can sense this pain in Victoria’s vocal delivery. The sonic landscape has this steady guitar & percussion that creates a nice backing for the reverb-soaked melody as it emerges; a pained distorted guitar comes through underneath all the mixing and adds to how powerful and gargantuan the song feels.
The more 7 sinks in, the more Dive’s crescendo stands out as a defining moment for it. The combination between its delicacies and such power/conviction is what makes listening to Beach House feel like this throbbing in my chest/splurge of emotions. And a more atmospheric, psychedelic moment comes next in Black Car, whose bouncy synth lead is easily the record’s most polished note. Even so, it has a blanket of reverby textures that slowly move in; it’s a patient track, but it’s so rewarding. Last Ride is a lovely closing note, with bleak pianos that become overtaken by other elements; the progression of the cut is nearly flawless.
Even on such an excellent record, I found room for improvement in a few areas; Girl of the year uses the standard Beach House formula, but with little to no standout qualities to boast. Its inclusion in the album feels pretty unnecessary. And while I don’t hate the idea of adding in a slow acoustic cut, Lose Your Smile’s placement after Black Car makes it come across as lackluster. But the vast majority of this record is exceptional, and totally cancels out these somewhat lackadaisical moments.
7 marks a moment in Beach House’s career where they can show off mastery of their craft. It’s a stylistic mixed bag, making it a standout moment in their catalog. It’s clear here that they haven’t run out of ideas but gotten a hold on how to tastefully play to their strengths. I’m totally here for whatever they have coming down the pipe. Here’s to these motherfuckin G’s; they never seem to disappoint. WoW.