I was in love before I even opened the case of Beach House’s fifth studio album Depression Cherry. It was Beach House. It was Subpop. Its album cover was swathed in red velvet.
Dream Pop is tricky to pin down sonically. It’s less of a genre and more a mixture of emotionally ambivalent sounds. Constant harmonies, slow tempos, drawn out droning, elegant distortion and gorgeously breathy vocals that speak of transcendental promises. When they are all intertwined these stylistic tropes evoke a mournful desire that is set against an overarching sentimentality. This ambivalence could be seen as blankness, but the intent of this distance is to set up some very pretty parameters to allow the listener to imbue the music with their personal meaning.
If you were to use the local vernacular, Beach House would be called Bach. Semantics aside, the name suits their music. Both are inviting spaces that live outside of time, and change comes gradually and subtlety- as seen on Depression Cherry. It does not have the big pop moments of Teen Dream or Bloom which in turn means that some of the emotional clout is lost. But that does not mean that Depression Cherry is lacking. Rather, it is yet another perfectly timed, lucid step forward for this Dream Pop band.
The drums are stripped back and the languid guitar and delicate synths are brought centre stage, Legrand’s vocals are pushed a little closer so it sounds like a whisper in your ear. As a result, the ethereal feeling of past Beach House records is given a slightly more worldly quality. It still strikes the balance between being dimly luscious and grandly theatrical. It still evokes an innocent sense of yesteryear. The subtle changes made allow the listener to feel the bones of Beach House’s music a little more. There is a sense of space, of simplicity that is a welcome development that may take several listens to truly get. Overall like velvet on skin, Depression Cherry feels heavily luxurious and perpetually elegant.
This article was first published on September 20th 2015.