Review: Beach House – Depression Cherry

As pleasurable as it is to listen to the soothing strains of a Beach House record, it is equally frustrating to assess their work in a critical manner.  In their eleven years together, the band has created a signature dreampop aesthetic built on a handful of recognizable fundamental elements, and has rarely deviated from that blueprint over the course of their five albums: Victoria Legrand’s smoky vocals float above Alex Scally’s delicate guitar lines, and their combined melodies are layered atop minimalist keyboards and bare-bones drum beats.  But it is a fool’s errand to spend much time deconstructing the music when the results are this beautiful.

It is extremely difficult to draw out the differences between Beach House albums, except to note how the production quality has improved over time with better equipment and a bigger budget.  Aside from a few standout singles, audiences at a Beach House show would be hard-pressed to determine if a specific song came from the Devotion or Bloom era.  To the band’s credit, however, they manage to hit upon the perfect melodic combination for three songs per album, and those moments can be as close to transcendence as indie rock can get.  Any musician would kill for that kind of ratio.

Though Depression Cherry offers many of the usual delights that one has come to expect from Beach House, the album’s best moments are found in the few instances when the band subtly tweaks their standard formula.  Lead single “Sparks” is a prime example, with its use of a rougher guitar tone that gives a nice edge to the melody and complements Legrand’s breathy voice.  The same can be said with the album’s other highlights, the gorgeous “PPP” and the sublime “Days of Candy”–epic ballads that not only show that the band is still capable of inducing goosebumps, but also hint at subsequent new musical directions for the future.  The changes are modest (exploring different keyboard tones and chord structures, the addition of choral voices, and playing with the underlying compositional structure a bit), but they at least indicate a willingness to break from the usual template a bit.

Longtime fans will find that Desperation Cherry has its own particular charms, and they grow with each subsequent listen.  For the neophyte, the album is an excellent showcase for the band’s trademark melancholic synthpop, and features plenty of hooks that will draw in listeners.  In either case, the record is likely to inspire a trip into the band’s sparkling back catalog, so as to enjoy the duo’s ability to capture that beautifully melancholic spirit so well.

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