“We drive around this town; houses melting down; visions turning green; is all we’ve ever seen, and then it’s dark again.” (Sparks)
Just yesterday, Baltimore duo Beach House released their fifth studio project, “Depression Cherry.” Known for their dreamy aesthetic, the team decided to abandon massive soundscapes in favor of a more nuanced work. The result is an abstract work that successfully merges unlikely sounds.
Album opener “Levitation” begins with the elements of an ethereal pop ballad, before evolving into a haunting, psychedelic portrait of dying youth. “On the bridge levitating because we want to; When the unknown will surround you; There is no right time; There is no right time.” The vocals are slightly sung under a heavy reverb, giving the track a sedated atmosphere akin to reliving an old memory.
The album’s experimentalism begins to show itself in the second track, “Sparks.” Coming off of Levitation’s smooth outro, the first 40 seconds of the song initially sound grating and jarring as it’s nothing more than looped vocal noises and a distorted guitar riff. When the main chords come in, it’s like the missing piece of a puzzle, tying all the instruments together in a cohesive progression. Its sound is extremely unique, relying on deep, distorted keys to create the central melody.
The duo gets the most psychedelic with “Space Song” and “Wildflower.” With long, mellow guitar riffs and heavy drums, the two are the most grandiose songs of the album. The bridge of “Space” is one the most poignant sounds on the album, a massive echoing soundscape that sounds as if it stumbled out of the acid-drenched ‘70s. “Wildflower” easily boasts the most upbeat production from the album, blending clappy, synthetic pop drums with their signature sound.
Aesthetically, “Cherry” sounds ethereal and upbeat. However, the lyrical content is largely bleak throughout the entire work, referencing heartbreak, death and inevitability as some large themes. “The universe is riding off with you; I know it comes too soon; I know it stays for nobody; I want to know you there; The universe is riding off with you.” (Days of Candy) The blend of tone results in a melancholic vibe that carries throughout the tracklist.
Vocalist Victoria Legrand’s contribution to the album is impeccable, channeling her impressive pitch range to utilize her voice as an instrument rather than simply sing over the production. Legrand gives the songs an emotional weight as she emulates and strengthens the central melodies. Without her contribution, the songs wouldn’t be half as effective as they are.
A notable component of some songs are the unique sets of drums used. “Beyond Love” & “ppp” similarly utilize manipulated drums to draw attention to other elements of the production. “Love” implements lo-fi, digital drums amongst synths and guitar riffs to create its aesthetic. The lo-fi drums are the most striking element of the song, as they blend perfectly with the keys whilst giving an otherworldly aesthetic to the guitar riffs.
The mixing is a technical highlight of the album, as no sound ever feels cluttered amongst the multitude of instruments. Almost every track has some of echo or reverb effect, yet often utilized differently. “10:37” is a bare-bones track, centered around vocals and minimalistic drums, yet the use of reverb on the instruments make it sound spacious.
Aesthetically sweet but lyrically dark, Beach House’s fifth studio album “Depression Cherry” lives up to the name. Each song sounds unique in its own way, never inching close to repetivity. The album works best when listened to in full, as the duo play with numerous sounds designed to cohesively lead into one another.