Following in the footsteps of 2010’s definitive map-marking record Teen Dream, I really thought Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House had hit the absolute pinnacle of their discography with the release of 2012’s Bloom; side-stepping the headphone-clad bedroom breakup comforts, to embrace a more live-friendly atmospheric take on their cloud-walking phenomena.
Now, withstanding apprehension and outright denying the societal demands for a band to ‘progress’ with each passing release, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have continued to embrace those same compositional methods and techniques that have seen them through the past decade, to bring us their fifth sonically emotive album Depression Cherry – and it is here within, that they raise the benchmark once again.
As its title suggests, Depression Cherry once more comes from the band’s signature angle of melancholia. The thing that sets it apart though, is the synesthetic and tactile quality of the sound, which appears to tamper with your senses and rearrange certain associated feelings in a way that is truly otherworldly. Here, Beach House blur the line between sound and imagery, colour and emotion, and aura and texture, in what is really the only notable a way that places the album above and beyond that of its predecessors.
Depression Cherry is the album that takes a typical Beach House soundscape trip and extends it to a whole other spiritual realm. Here time, space, weight, and substance are apportioned, stretched and reformed, to both accentuate and dissolve one another in a topsy-turvy in-between place of dense weightlessness, and whispered screams. This is certainly in part due to the continuous drones that carry the album’s lofty presence, and the suspended vocal chords that unearth a heartbreaking ache that is closely reminiscent of nostalgia. It’s as if Scally has control of a hot air balloon’s flame, and Legrand is reacting to the many shifts in altitude.
The record’s third track ‘Space Song’ is a prime example of this. With a steady incremental climb of volume, a soft, simple tapping of a cymbal is laid across an established opening synth drone, that ticks like a countdown, paving the way for lift-off at the 25-second mark when a secondary twangy guitar-like synth carries the listener away completely. It is here at this little limbo land between up and down, that Legrand can sonorously deliver heartbreaking lines like “tender is the night for a broken heart / who will dry your eyes when it falls apart?”
It are these simple arrangements on Depression Cherry – Scally’s slight tweak of a drone’s pitch, the clarity of movement between Legrand’s exquisite contralto and a soaring soprano – that really cement Beach House’s rule over the indiesphere as dream pop royalty. Long live the King and Queen.
Depression Cherry is out now via Mistletone and Inertia.