Beach House’s ‘7’ Is A Magnificent Fortress In A Stormy World

Deputy Music Editor
05.11.18

Shawn Brackbill

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Over now seven albums, Beach House have owned one of the greatest misnomers in rock. There’s never been anything sunny about their music, and the common associations with their band name — vacation, suntans, summer, brightness — don’t fit anywhere within their aesthetic. If the band were to literally encapsulate their name, it would be a rarely used mansion on the rocky Atlantic in the Northeast. When visited, the furniture would be draped in dusty white sheets, while outside a cold ocean breeze would push mist into squinting eyes. Their beach house would not be a place of relaxation, but a refuge from the untamed elements outside, a temporary home that feels safe and warm in a chaotic, unforgiving world.

But since their debut, the Baltimore duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have, over time, owned up to their band name. Like an image slowly coming into focus, they’ve made the concept of Beach House not seem like a bait-and-switch. By association, Beach House now means music for the cover of night, songs you know not to interrupt when you hear them coming from a neighboring room, albums meant to live in and guard against rising tides. It’s the kind of achievement that happens so slow, only those carefully watching can even notice it. You’d need time-lapse to capture these glacial changes.

Evolution is, in fact, this band’s M.O. It’s a counterpoint to everyone who has ever argued that every Beach House album sounds the same, a litmus test to how carefully people actually listen. The “sameness” critique is a pretty common knock of the band, and one that slips through your fingers as you revisit their catalog. Where the self-titled debut, now a dozen years old, is an intimate and spare introduction of their definitively dream pop stylings, by 2010’s Teen Dream, the band had adapted for bigger stages, adding elements like live drums and full arrangements to give their sound the big budget treatment it deserved. 2015’s Depression Cherry was a bit of a retreat to moodiness and psychedelia following some of their most immediate work on 2012’s Bloom, while their most recent effort, their other 2015 release Thank Your Lucky Stars, saw their maturing songcraft revisit some of their earliest recording techniques.

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