By Freddie Paull
Like the sun slowly rising after a painfully long and lonely night, Beach House beams some love at us once again. Despite consistently releasing an album every two years since 2006, Beach House took an extra year to deliver this subtle treasure. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are a little bit older now, but time has seemingly only made them more comfortable with their sound, as well as their place in the hearts and minds of millions.
When asked by NPR about their statement declaring Depression Cherry “a return to simplicity”, they admitted their immediate regret in labeling it such, stating that the phrase could be interpreted differently by everyone. They’re right. Ultimately, the album is not as much a return to simplicity as a newfound comfortability in subtlety. Beach House has seemingly traded in the giant washed out crescendos of Bloom for a sound that takes a softer, more direct route into your heart.
As if a sign that it’s still the same old Beach House, the album begins with a nostalgia-soaked beat reminiscent of many past tracks, as it eases us into “Levitation”. “There’s a place I want to take you”, Legrand sings, hinting at some of the wondrous new sounds to come. This track’s classic slow build leads us gently into their new album. As a distorted guitar rings through washy Vaseline walls of sound, we are confronted by a new sound for Beach House. “Sparks” stands out as the most progressive of Beach House’s new tunes. The synth seems to always keep you guessing, and heavy guitar is something previously unattempted by them. Despite being their leading single for Depression Cherry, “Sparks” doesn't quite retain the melodic gold Legrand and Scally have found in other songs on the album, but the song still has its moments.
“Space Song” is pure unabashed Beach House bliss. Those fans that never tire of the classic sound will love this track’s bubbly synth, backed by some of Legrand’s heart wrenching vocals. It goes above and beyond to solidify itself as one of the most beautiful Beach House compositions to date. Another of the three singles released for the album, “Beyond Love” is a good reflection of the album’s subtlety. The song glides between verse and chorus with no warning from the drums, with Legrand once again, and to glorious effect, showering us with more beautiful thoughts.
Starting with what sounds like a simple pre-programmed cheap 80’s keyboard beat slowed down, Legrand and Scally dive into their most mysterious song on Depression Cherry. “1037” is a tightrope walk between subtlety and complex, hymn-like melody. Easing us into another heavy-hearted wonder, Legrand seems to almost whisper a few mysterious lines before ushering us into one of the strongest tracks on Depression Cherry, and arguably one of the most beautiful songs they’ve ever written. “PPP” retains those familiarly hypnotizing, hymn-like melodies as Legrand seems to sing about a past love, and Scally matches her with some equaling heart-breaking guitar licks.
“Wildflower” is the ideal companion for a late-night drive in your Delorean, or a misty memory montage of the lover who stood you up for your 1983 prom. Legrand and Scally fully embrace their influences in this retro treasure. Continuing the 80’s theme, a jarringly simple 808 beat leads us into one of the album's most minimal yet rewarding tracks on the album, titled “Bluebird”.
In the discographic history of Beach House’s album aesthetic, they have frequently treated their final track with the reverence album-enders deserve. They continue their streak of poignant bookends with “Days of Candy”, gracefully leading you to the last note of the album with a hypnotic lullaby that almost seems to lovingly rock you to sleep before taking your hand and guiding you through the lightest parts of your dreams.
One of the single greatest things about the discography of Beach House is its familiarity to those who have come to love the Beach House sound. It feels so reassuring as a fan, that the artist that you love is secure in their sound. Today, most artists seem to give in to a litany of ever-reaching creative changes that only serve to show the insecurities lurking deep within their egos. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally seem so comfortable in the sound that is now so unmistakably theirs that there is no sign of struggle to change and adapt to changing times. Their sound is timeless. And in the annals of their creative existence, Depression Cherry sits proudly alongside the beautiful pieces of art that came before it.