Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have been making shimmery, reverb-drenched Dreampop under the name Beach House since 2004. Their first two albums, self-titled Beach House and 2008’s Devotion were solid, if not brilliant introductions to the band’s sound, while Teen Dream and 2012’s Bloom were masterworks of the genre. So after two good albums, and two brilliant albums, what more is there for Beach House to do? Depression Cherry finds the band, surprisingly, scaling back from the melodic pop hooks of Bloom. It is an introverted and quieter effort this time around. Not as innovative as perhaps some fans would have liked, but still a solid effort.
Beach House reminds me quite a bit of Bjork. Just like the iconic Icelandic musician, Beach House manage to put out albums that sound different, but the same. It’s hard to put my thumb on why; maybe it’s the electronic organs, Victoria’s soft vocals, or Alex’s deceptively simple and shimmery guitar lines, but Beach House will always sound like Beach House. This is both a good thing and a bad thing for the sound of Depression Cherry. A good thing because, Beach House will always put out beautiful, slightly melancholic reverb drenched pop tunes. Songs like “Levitation”, “Space Song” and “Beyond Love” are wonderful, classic Beach House. They could easily fit in on Bloom or Teen Dream.
Yet, maybe my hopes were too high for this album, but judging from the Shoegaze inspired “Sparks”, the first single for Depression Cherry, I expected an album that was going in a markedly different direction from Bloom. “Sparks” is truly brilliant: a distorted guitar melody opens, before Victoria’s electric organ intermingles with it. It’s a Beach House I haven’t heard before, “Sparks” is a fresh and inspired track. So is “10:37”, a track found midway through the album. This is a percussive song, beginning with just drum machine and Victoria’s vocals, which are sung in a higher register than usual, and far more melodically. It’s an intimate and scaled back tune and amazingly clear for a Beach House composition, with hardly any reverb.
If only there were more songs like “Sparks” and “10:37” on Depression Cherry. Instead, the album feels like the denouement of Bloom, and despite how wonderful that album is, and how good the tracks are on Depression Cherry, I was hoping for more of an evolution rather than just a continuation; a statement record after the triumph of Beach House’s last two efforts. Instead, Depression Cherry offers a good, but not brilliant return for the band. Depression Cherry is worth a listen, but Teen Dream and Bloom will still get more time spinning on my record player, and blasting my eardrums through headphones.