For an hour or so, I was on my own. Lost in some trance-like state as I watched a band with a familiar knack of taking me away from any given situation, and putting me somewhere completely different. I was standing amongst 1500 fellow punters, taking in a band that made every single attendee feel invisible.
It’s cheesy, I know, and considering the trippy account of what was essentially a gig in Camden with three mates, I hadn’t dropped acid that evening. But there’s something about Beach House that I’m glad to say I can’t explain. They’re an enigma in a world of social media and talent shows and with their new album Depression Cherry about to be released, it’s time to realise just how good this Baltimore duo really are.
Having worked in the music department of a well-known high street shop that nearly went out of business but didn’t (not sure I’ve narrowed it down enough), Beach House were the provider of my High Fidelity moment on a consistent basis. Always prompting a reaction from whoever still bought CDs and whichever staff member I hadn’t introduced them to yet.
Since their breakthrough album Teen Dream came out in 2010 through Bella Union, they have grown massively in popularity. Their 2012 release and fourth album Bloom reached a high of number 14 in the UK charts, a jump of over 100 places compared to their previous effort two years earlier. Depression Cherry will almost certainly make the top ten and coincides with their biggest UK tour to date later in the year.
There isn’t a major shift in style when listening to ‘Depression Cherry’ and whilst ‘Sparks’, the first song released from the new record, appears to signal a more guitar heavy sound, the rest of the album is more akin to the Beach House of recent years. That shoe-gaze, cinematic atmosphere they’ve crafted so perfectly is still there but with the live drums that were prominent throughout Bloom are much more stripped back.
Call it an evolution of sorts, but band members Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have stuck with the same ethos behind their artistry since starting the band a little over ten years ago; an idea of wanting to avoid the commercialisation of their music.
Listening to Beach House, you can understand why advertisers might want to use their distinct sound. Back in 2012, Volkswagon infamously tried for weeks to get the band to give them the rights to the song ‘Take Care’ from Teen Dream. They repeatedly declined before the car company decided to give up, only to then use an almost identical song called ‘Whispers & Stories’, a track apparently by British band Sniffy Dog. Sniffy Dog actually turned out to be a music and design firm.
In a recent interview, Scally talked about the use of their music for commercial gain, saying: “I feel fatigued by the concept that no art is safe from commercialism. Can’t I just experience something? I don’t want it to be sold to me or branded. The thing that I crave is authenticity.”
It’s hard to argue with such a strong and honest statement but the balance between keeping that authenticity and ideology whilst being able to grow as a successful band is difficult. They may have refused Volkswagon the use of their music but they have previously allowed Guinness and TV shows to use other tracks. But hey, who am I to dispute how a band choose to present their sound and to which companies.
With the new album released on the 28th August and a much larger spotlight on the group than ever before, it will be interesting to see how reviewers perceive Depression Cherry on first listen. On the surface, it appears to follow the same formula but once you dig deeper, this is arguably their most ambitious record to date. The sound may steer towards a more simplistic structure but in turn, this allows Legrand to experiment much more vocally and lyrically,
Ideas and musings about love, death and anything in-between are able to shine through more than ever. Opener ‘Levitation’ has her ambiguously repeating, “There’s a place I want to take you, when the unknown will surround you.” But later on, in the brilliantly dreamy ‘Space Song’, she begins to give us some idea of hope, telling us “Somewhere in these eyes, I’m on your side.” Album closer ‘Days of Candy’ brings us back full circle, leaving us with lines such as, “No one could find you, out on your own”, “Just like that it’s gone” and “The universe is riding off with you”.
The great thing I’ve come to discover about Beach House is I never tire of them. There’s a longevity to all of their records to date that manages to stay with you in a way that’s so hard to find in new music. Songs that you perhaps weren’t keen on first time round are favourite tracks a year later. Lyrics that wash over you one week are eerily relatable the next. Each and every track craves repeat listening and Depression Cherry sounds like being no different.
Belfast, Mandela Hall – 24 October
Glasgow, O2 ABC – 26 October
Manchester, The Ritz – 27 October
London, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 30 October
London, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 31 October