Sub Pop Records/Bella Union/Mistletone Records
Depression Cherry is Beach House’s fifth album, and, by this point, fans know exactly what to expect from the Baltimore duo. The songs will be beautifully produced and wonderfully pretty, with singer Victoria Legrand’s solemn, sonorous croons looming over dreamy arrangements marked by droning organs, steady mid-tempo beats, and Alex Scally’s chiming guitar arpeggios.
Assuming that fans were looking for more of the same, Depression Cherry doesn’t disappoint. The melodies nor the lyrics make much of a lasting impression, and there aren’t any particularly notable hooks to speak of. Instead, the vocals serve to complement the unfailingly lovely soundscapes, which seem as if they were specifically designed for slow-motion movie sequences and gazing wistfully towards the sunset.
Trying to identify any differences between this record and Beach House’s past work requires a close examination of the details. The arrangements here are perhaps a little less lush than the ones heard on 2012’s Bloom; the emphasis is on the band’s penchant for stark, lo-fi electronic beats rather than than full-bodied drums (Depression Cherry is a Casiotone-lover’s delight), and an interest in jarring shoegaze emerges on “Sparks.”
That song is the closest we get to a curveball on Depression Cherry, and it’s also the best of the nine songs. The guitar tones are soaked in speaker-obliterating fuzz and the keyboards, rather than favouring the usual polite prettiness, land on some tense and ugly chords. Lagrand’s vocals keep the song tied to a gently yearning melody, but the song otherwise has more bite than Beach House is known for, and it’s tempting to wish the pair would this aggressive side more frequently.
Still, when you’ve got songs as beautiful as the aching romance of “Beyond Love,” the crystalline slide guitar licks of “Space Song” or the choral swoon of “Days of Candy,” it’s hard to complain much. “PPP” is particularly touching, as Legrand adopts an affecting spoken-word delivery amidst honeyed 6/8 arpeggios. Rather than hoping for Beach House to make a bold step forward, it’s best just to appreciate the duo for what it is: an unadventurous band that has perfected a specific brand of hazy, serene dream pop and has no interest in changing.
Review By Alex Hudson