Beach House surprise with second 2015 release

'Thank your Lucky Stars' not just 'Depression Cherry' rejects

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Beach House surprise with second 2015 release

Fair use image from Sub-Pop Records

Fair use image from Sub-Pop Records

Fair use image from Sub-Pop Records

Conor Battles, Editor-in-Chief, Arts & Entertainments Editor

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Three months ago, Baltimore electronic pop duo Beach House released Depression Cherry, their dreamy, spaced-out fifth LP. It was lauded in this very publication for being among their tightest releases to date. What no one saw coming was that, a quarter of a year later, there would be yet another record to appraise.

Earlier last week, vocalist/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally announced that their sixth album, titled Thank Your Lucky Stars, was complete, and would be released the following week. It would be easy to write off TYLS as a collection of Depression Cherry throwaways, but to do so would be nothing short of deceiving.

There are common threads, sure. Every Beach House album sounds a little like the ones before it. The Casio drum machine loops from “Sparks” return on “She’s So Lovely.” The gliding, shoegazey guitar work that permeated Depression Cherry cuts like “Levitation” and “PPP” are doubled down on Thank Your Lucky Stars. But right from the live drum fill that brings album opener “Majorette” to life, it is made readily apparent that, in its own way, Thank Your Lucky Stars is a very different beast from every Beach House album before it.

Firstly, the vocals. Legrand trades in the childlike, ethereal lilt she has favored on the last few albums, back to 2012’s Bloom. She takes on a clear, resoundingly mature voice, far more akin to Nico’s classical brogue than the pixie soprano she has employed recently. The vocals are far more distinct, placed much more directly in the center of the mix. Lyrically, the album is at once abstract and straightforward, dabbling in thematic content worlds apart from the sugary, exuberant pop on Depression Cherry.  Tracks like “Rough Song,” “Elegy to the Void,” and “The Traveller” give off a more world-weary sort of vibe than anything hence released by the duo.

Live instrumentation is far more prominent on the record than it has been since 2010’s Teen Dream. Resounding bass drums, exhilarating guitars courtesy of Scally’s studio wizardry, and even a more organic, warm sound from Legrand’s symphonic keyboard arrangements all lend themselves to a finished product that feels much more raw and alive than Depression Cherry.

Two albums in a year is a risky enterprise. The fear of going stale, of coming off as derivative and uninspired just through sheer volume and oversaturation, is a distinctly real threat to any band, let alone one who is already so frequently criticized for never innovating on their sound. Thankfully, Thank Your Lucky Stars remains an enjoyable, exciting forty minutes of dream-pop that hardly overstays its welcome. The Year of Beach House certainly seems to be in full swing, and we should be thankful for that.


7/10

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