On “Levitation”, the opening track from their newest album Depression Cherry, Beach House’s Victoria Legrand sings “There’s a place I want to take you”. The delivery of the line has a certain soft, haunting quality to it, as if Legrand is just that close to not singing actual words – a technique she’s honed over the course of the band’s near ten-year career. As much as the way she sings the lyric has an effect on the listener, allowing them to blend the vocals and instrumentals together in their mind to form one big sonic canvas, it’s what’s being said that’s really important here. It probably crossed Legrand’s mind during the writing process that the lyric itself serves as almost a self-referencing point to the duo’s entrancing, otherworldly style, and it’s probably not that far fetched to think she left it in the song for a reason: After nine years and 4 excellent records, Beach House still has plenty of sonic destinations just waiting for anyone willing to come along for the ride.
The direction taken on Depression Cherry is particularly befitting given the name of the record – warm, inviting pop melodies poke their way through layers of fuzzy synths, creating a nice blend of sweet and rough sounds. The shift in the band’s sound towards an overall rougher tone could be interpreted as a sign of the times, as reverb-drenched, slowed-down indie music is once again in vogue. However, as a band who very rarely tries to impress anyone, Beach House do a great job of owning the “trendier” sound they’ve adopted on this record and making it their own. The simple, groovy percussion is still in place, as are Legrand’s simple, hypnotic melodies that have always made the band’s music so easy to become lost in. Everything is just a little on the rougher side now, and tracks like “Beyond Love” and “Sparks” show just how that slight experimentation has paid off.
The huge effect that even the slightest changes have had on Beach House’s music speak to one of the most impressive things about the band – their sound is so simple and malleable to begin with, a slight alteration in pretty much anything can be very moving. How this affects Depression Cherry as a record in particular is shown through how changes in instrumental tone and types of effects used set the mood on every single track. Sometimes the pessimistic sonic themes are less pronounced (“10:37”) and at other times they seem to figuratively hit the listener in the face (“Days of Candy”) creating a nice ebb and flow between tracks in terms of mood, while still diverting back to the norm.
As a complete package, then, Depression Cherry comes at the listener in waves. Waves of hooky pop-influenced songwriting at times and waves of bass-heavy synths and breathy vocals at others. All of these sonic patterns are connected by Beach House’s signature, unwavering style that continues throughout all nine tracks. It may be subtle at times, but it can be heard in Legrand’s voice when she sings a barely-audible pop hook over what sounds like a sea of electronic chords, as well as in the drums that repeat themselves over and over again for what seems like forever, but never sound tired or overused.
All in all, then, this record is defined by small changes in between songs that are both noticeable and easy to lose in the back of one’s mind. It may be easy to say that Depression Cherry is a record full of contradictions, but it’s probably more accurate to say that it’s one of duality – multiple instrumental and vocal interpretations of each track present themselves with every listen, opening up new doors for the listener to explore over and over again. This is Beach House at their best: immersive, prolific, and full of surprises. Dive into Depression Cherry and see where it takes you.