Give Beach House credit for one thing: They know exactly how to sound like Beach House. Depression Cherry is the fifth album from the band in about a decade, and they stay firmly in the pocket throughout its nine tracks. The formula is a simple one: Sparse drum loops, droning keys, reverby guitar leads, and one single voice over top of everything. But oh man, that voice. Victoria Legrand can belt out vocals as well as anybody. Beyond that, though, she knows how to set a mood.
It’s that abstract moodiness that lets Beach House headline festivals while still occupying the same sonic territory they started exploring as far back as 2008’s Devotion. Every guitar slide and modulated organ chord that survived the final studio cut serve to establish a sound that is as equally somber as it is triumphant. Alex Scally might be one of the most understated lead guitarists in popular music. He’s like an indie rock middle reliever: the better he does his job, the less noticeable he seems. It’s not an easy trick to pull off, and that’s one of the main reasons BH are playing Sunday main stage slots while a dozen bands emulating them are barely visible at the bottom of Coachella’s lineup poster.
Just like its predecessors Bloom and Teen Dream, Depression Cherry leans on this atmosphere as a sort of third band member. In theory, it’d be easy to paste the dream-pop label on this review and call it a day. Hell, lead single “Sparks” takes that idea and pushes it about as far into shoegaze territory as Legrand and Scally have ever ventured. But there’s a smokey blanket draped over the proceedings that lends a cinematic feel to everything. Standout tracks like “Space Song”, “10:37”, “PPP”, and “Wildflower” all sound like chamber-pop on quaaludes, despite the sparse instrumentation throughout.
Repeated listens reveal a bit of experimentation. Drummer Chris Bear (of Grizzly Bear fame) adds some extra muscle to a few of the tracks, and a church choir rings in album closer “Days of Candy”. There’s small details like those throughout the album, but ultimately these songs sound like they were designed to stand alone with as little clutter as possible. Minimalism is the name of the game on Cherry, and it works more often than not. While nothing soars to the heights of Bloom‘s “Irene” (and really, not many songs do), the valleys here are still perched far above sea level.
Dum Dum Girls’ re-imagining of Lee Hazlewood’s “Think I’m Coming Down” was always the moody, epic outlier on Only in Dreams, an album of otherwise shambolic 60’s girl-group pop. That moodiness lends itself quite well to a live setting, as you’ll see when the band knocks it out of the park in the video above.
Stick with this one for a little bit, cause once all the parts come together it’s an absolute monster. Contemporary MBV playing through Slowdive’s pedal boards.
It also pleases me that I get to note a Pittsburgh tour date on two blog posts in a row. Beach House is at Mr. Smalls 8/22. Imagining that guitar tone filling up every nook and cranny of the old church has me all sorts of excited.
I still find myself being surprised when Low, quintessential slowcore vets that they are, can create such an imposing atmosphere with so few ingredients. “No Comprende” is a reminder of how effortless it seems when they make “epic” happen.
Do you like Stereolab? Atlas Sound? Atlas Sound songs where he’s mostly aping Stereolab? Does you foot start tapping when you’ve got a few PBR’s in you and the Gooskis jukebox starts rocking? Then maybe you’ll enjoy this one as much as I do.
Who needs to reinvent the wheel when it got you exactly where you needed to be in the first place?
What are you doing here? You know that the new Sleater-Kinney album is streaming, right?