Review: Beach House – Depression Cherry

Beach House, Depression Cherry (Sub Pop)
August 28, 2015


“With the growing success of Teen Dream and Bloom, the larger stages and bigger rooms naturally drove us towards a louder, more aggressive place; a place farther from our natural tendencies,” the band declared on the Depression Cherry release page on the Sub Pop website. As far as band theses go, there’s no better gauge for how this album sounds. Depression Cherry dismantles a little of Bloom’s celestial loudness and Teen Dream’s sun-drenched nostalgia for what almost feels like a continuation of their second record, Devotion, and its poetic gloom.

Beach House are meticulous refiners of their sound and a quick skimming of each of their records might feel like trying to pinpoint different shades of red. But the nine tracks on Depression Cherry carry a weight to them thanks to a more stripped-back sound, slower melodies, and a tidal-washed drone that the band previously has focused less and less on. Alex Scally’s instrumentation on this record seems relaxed: the guitars, drum machines (or lack thereof), and synthesizers don’t seem like a performance, but more like something that just happened to be caught on tape. On “Sparks”, the band doesn’t launch into their ethereal dream pop until after a minute of feedback. And on “Wildflower”, a song that feels almost hollowed out, the track ends without any theatrical crescendo. On the duo’s latest effort, everything is a series of small slopes and hills, and as a result, the record has a drowning rhythmic quality that grows increasingly more hypnotic the more you listen to it.

Lyrically, the duo sketch out subdued pastel-scapes of homes gone and the anxieties of marriage and adulthood. Even when it’s not direct, Victoria Legrand’s gorgeous vocals communicate a feeling of transience. Reductively, you can shoehorn the lyrics as “dream pop stuff” and ignore it, but that’d be missing the synergistic quality of these lyrics with the music. Even if there are particular meanings, it’s likely these lyrics will mean something different for listeners depending on the mindset that they carry when plunging into this record.

And make no mistake, Depression Cherry is a record that’s only unlocked with the proper mindset. It’s a record lover’s record, something to put on and immerse yourself into, keying in on the nuaces of each song and the mood it conveys. In other words, you’re more likely to feel underwhelmed streaming this record on your phone, while say, rapidly firing off texts in a group chat. Unlike Bloom, where there are track highlights to anchor off of, Depression Cherry forces you to engage with it as an album, one that has to be listened to in one sitting.

Fans of Bloom might feel underwhelmed by Depression Cherry’s sometimes meandering mood. Whereas the previous record had borders, this album feels borderless. Yet it’s a magnificently confident record, it almost has to be to carry a title as coy as Depression Cherry. The record constantly reminded me of dream pop bands of the 90s with a parallel sonic map, specifically the subdued alluring qualities of “Cherry-Colored Funk” by Cocteau Twins and the warped joys of Slowdive. Beach House might not care for these comparisons, but for listeners like me, inducting Beach House into the dream pop canon is simply meant to convey a feeling of confidence in the duo’s ever-reliable sound.