Baltimore’s soft alternative darlings Beach House bring down the tempo with their fifth full album Depression Cherry.
Some alternative and soft rock groups can create the perfect serenity through their music. Whether it’s through a combination of vocals and acoustics or the incorporation of synthesized keyboards and guitar feedback, there have been full soundtracks and dreamscapes created by some fantastic musicians.
Beach House have been at the forefront of this dreampop/soft-alternative experience since their 2006 EP. Every time they have released a full album since, their LP’s have made it to highest of end of year award lists on multiple outlets including Pitchfork, NME, Billboard and Amazon.
One of the most distinguishing features of Beach House’s music is that only occasionally do you hear a song come to a complete end. Victorica Legrand and Alex Scally explained it best on an interview with NPR saying that they want their music to always fade out. In a sense, the song feels like it can go on forever. This even comes across in their live performances where a song will fade unto quiet and then turn into the next son on the setlist.
After many successful albums comes Depression Cherry, an album that has been advertised online and promoted as a more simplistic version of what Beach House can create than in the past. When asked by FactMag about the songs and lyrics throughout Depression Cherry, Alex Scally said: “I don’t think that the songs on this record are like the ones on our previous records, personally. They could have never existed on the previous records… (but) Anyone’s entitled to any of these things that they want to feel.”
In many ways Beach House’s music is something you have to hear to understand as it is not the typical stage format and classic band dynamic. Depression Cherry was announced earlier this year and with the announcement came the album’s promoted single “Sparks”.
In many ways this is instantly definable as a song from Beach House by just about anyone who has heard one of their albums before. When I first heard Sparks a few months ago I didn’t know what to think of it with the consistent static feedback and what sounds like 56k dial up sounds. It’s not until the Legrand’s vocals start that you understand how everything fits together.
The rhythm of the synthesized drums helps carry Legrand’s whispery vocals into something peaceful. This song takes time to grab your attention and set an atmosphere as it starts more jarring than inviting, but after about 90 seconds you understand what Beach House was going for. And in many ways, that ideology describes many Beach House songs.
Listening to an entire album from Beach House can sometimes seem like an extremely odd experience. While the track list goes on, you may drift off and wonder how long you’ve been listening to a song or when the tracks have changed. But by the end of the album, you think about how fast everything just flashed by.
PPP feels like a timewarp to the days of peaceful 60’s songs played outside. The acoustics and piano are incredibly fluid and never take too much focus from other elements like the vocals or overall rhythm. The pace of songs like PPP and Beyond Love on this album represent just how slow Beach House can take their music, while songs like Blue Bird and Sparks show how they can drive more of a pulse based rhythm, all without raising the vocal range.
There is an appreciation for soft alternative like this that prove creativity can carry a song in unique ways. Even if not every song on Depression Cherry leaves a permanent mark, there are several moments in this album that make you want to come back. The good not only outweighs the bad, but also makes you appreciate what is so good about music like this.
Describing Beach House to someone who hasn’t heard it is a lot like describing what salt tastes like to someone who has never had salt. Once you have experienced it, you remember it forever. And while Depression Cherry does have songs that fall by the wayside, there are tracks here that you’ll keep with you as go to songs for quiet moments for the rest of your life.
Overall, Depression Cherry should satisfy the longtime fans of Baltimore’s darlings and should also satisfy new comers who are interested in what Legrand and Scally are capable of. While it may not be their greatest accomplishment, the talent still shines through their work in this album.