BEACH HOUSE - DEPRESSION CHERRY
Released August 28, 2015
By Brendan Tuytel
Simplicity is intrinsically tied to limitation. The less variables in an equation, the fewer the possible outcomes. But this doesn’t dispel the notion that there is an attraction in the repetition and the familiarity it entails. Baltimore dream pop outfit Beach House is comprised of two members and is built from simple song writing done in a grandiose fashion. The duo was evolving in its practices up until 2008’s Teen Dream, a serendipitous product of teeming talent balancing on its pinnacle paired with a producer best prepared to harness it. The broader breadth of building blocks culminated in one of the best albums of its genre. However, for each album following, this lead to a predictable hurdle. 2012’s Bloom was enjoyable despite its stagnation and Depression Cherry would have to go to new places, but it does so from the confines of its own comfort.
There are flashes of brilliance that give the deception that Depression Cherry is going to be significantly different, most notably in the single Spark. Much like the comfort of a beach house the band is named after, there is familiarity in their trademark composition before rough distortion and brooding synths bring the coastal calamity of breezes in hot summer air, contributing to the thematic contrast of light and dark the lyrics bring with imagery of a spark. It’s a stunning single from beginning to end with each element tied together by a single thread, yet it’s also a tangible example of what the band is capable when experimenting with new directions. It’s the tracks that regress to airy vocals of Victoria Legrand and the spacey twang of Alex Scally’s guitar that keep the album from being something special. Even some of the drum samples simply blend into each other, feeling like bland rhythms that act as nothing more than filler.
However, I’d be remiss to say the overall experience is unenjoyable, just as I would be if I said the same about Bloom. Beach House, in its most rudimentary form, may fail to stray too far from a formula, but the formula is really damn good. The opener Levitation features a swell of keyboards building into Legrand’s near whisper - nothing new, but it still gets a firm grasp on the listener, in part due to the anticipation which follows. Each album brings a full experience, a development of reverie and a consequent rupture of it; there is a vibrant tone broken up by darker lulls. PPP and Wildflower are exciting when viewed as solitary pieces, but add extra variation to the album’s complexion. This culminates in the six-minute Days of Candy, a song easily identified as the ending largely due to its resemblance to a Beach House send off.
Yet another fine piece of ambient, minimalist melodrama, Depression Cherry proves that Beach House is a band deserving of attention, but it fails to hold onto the attention it grabs. What distinguishes it what other acts has become so ingrained in the duo’s identity that it can blend together. There’s more complexity here than Bloom, but it’s concentrated selectively throughout. Much of the experience feels dressed up to compensate for a lack of new ideas. As an isolated album, it’s a well-rounded production with brilliant melodies effectively integrated with basic beats to create an ethereal sensory synesthesia of nostalgic youth and love. When considered in context, it’s something they have done better before. In a way, Beach House both fails and succeeds by its simplicity; it draws on the same emotions and pleasures, yet detracts from them by doing so.