Beach House “7” Review
by Leon Sommer-Simpson
Beach House, a neo-psychedelic dream pop band from Baltimore, dropped their seventh album “7,” early this May. The duo, consisting of vocalist and keyboardist Victoria Legrand, and guitarist and keyboardist Alex Scally, burst onto the indie-rock scene in the mid-2000’s with their self-titled album, “Beach House.” They continued to find their sound with the following albums “Devotion” and “Teen Dream,” in which the band cemented their sound and place in the indie-pop world. The band has always melted organ, and acoustic guitar, and used reverb to create the repetitive underwater landscape in which Legrand sings. Many have compared Legrand’s off-kilter and melodic voice to that of German singer Nico. Another, more contemporary comparison might be to neo-psychedelic rock singer Melody Prochet, of Melody’s Echo Chamber. With the more recent 2015 releases by the duo, like “Thank Your Lucky Stars” and “Depression Cherry,” the band played it safe with their same dreamy style, but lacked any real experimentation or differentiation from previous albums. On “7,” Beach House breaks from this mold, unafraid to sprinkle in new sounds here and there.
The opening track of the album, “Dark Spring” casts the listener into the world of Beach House, with explosive drums blaring. The lyrics are coded and mystical, Scally joining Legrand in the singing. The following song, “Pay No Mind,” slows the heartbeat of the album after the jumpy opener. “Pay No Mind” features an exquisite mixture of spacey, whisper-like vocals, and a grungy reverberating baseline that pays homage to shoegaze. “Lemon Glow” has a bubblegummy rhythm, and the lemony lyrics juxtapose with other darker themes of “Candy-colored misery // The color of your mind.”
The fourth track, “L’Inconnue,” includes repetitive overlapping singing which gives it the feeling of a round. The title refers to the “L'Inconnue de la Seine,” or The Unknown Woman of the Seine, --a woman who was found drowned in the Seine river in the late 1880’s. One of the workers at the morgue made a wax plaster cast of the unknown woman’s face. An image of this cast swept across France; the morbid mystery of the suicide, and her eery Mona Lisa-esque smile were sources of intrigue for many Parisians at the time. French-born Legrand sings in the language of love. “Petit ange et l'inconnue // Sainte, la pute et l'ingénue,” which expresses the duality of femininity in the religious sense: the internal conflict of sinful desires versus the requirement of a continuous purity. The subject matter of songs in “7,” “L’Inconnue” included, explore new depths for the band.
Some of the following track listings, like “Drunk in L.A.” and “Black Car” continue pushing just outside of the edges of the bands typical range, and are resultantly enjoyable listens. However, the back end of the album is clearly less adventurous compared to the front, includingwith songs like “Woo” and “Girl of the Year” falling flat. “Woo” features a wall of sound, and certain vaporwave elements, but the uninspired vocals become indistinguishable from the background. “Girl of the Year” can only be described as monotonous, and again the vocal performance is less than exciting.
Beach House clearly has some great songs off of “7.” These songs included a perfect balance of experimentation in harder rock sounds, greater distortion, or inspired vocals with the elements of dream pop that made Beach House so distinctive. However, many of the later songs seem like lesser rehashes of songs that can be found on previous Beach House albums. If you haven’thave not given the duo a listen before, the album as a whole might feel fresh. For returning fans, try a few tracks like “Pay No Mind” and “Drunk in L.A.,” but otherwise you can return to the band’s classics.