Artist: Beach House
Album: Depression Cherry
Release Date: August 18th, 2015
Label: Sub Pop
In their past two albums, Teen Dream and Bloom, Beach House have seemed to grow out of the small, cozy home that initially housed their intimate dream-pop music.
The massive singles from Bloom sounded like efforts to amaze a crowd of thousands. Fittingly, the duo played at the largest venues they’ve ever played during the Bloom tour cycle. However, bigger didn’t necessarily mean better for the band. And for their fifth album Depression Cherry, they take a step back from what they achieved in Bloom to return to what got them to love making music in the first place.
For Depression Cherry, Beach House return to a private space closer in spirit to their first two albums, Beach House and Devotion. Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scally were building their identity as Beach House then. The two picked up their trusted kit of antique organs, drum machines and slide guitars to write many iterations of their imagined pop. Though their sounds were set in stone already by their debut, each track from the two albums represented the pieces that later composed the complete version of the band in Teen Dream.
Similar to their earlier records, LeGrand and Scally set a more playful atmosphere in Depression Cherry to toy with their meticulously established style. The two roughen up their once spotless surface in “Sparks” and “Beyond Love.” They hire a choir to open the album closer “Days of Candy.” The biggest curveball is “PPP,” which has LeGrand doing spoken word for her verses. These changes come about from the duo not exactly to top their last effort but to simply see what sticks. And from how things sound, the two seem satisfied by the new direction. LeGrand at the least sounds the most lively in “PPP” when she performs her verse in spoken word.
Though the two may be lightening the mood by trying out new sounds, this is still an album titled Depression Cherry. In the center lies a broken heart which LeGrand tries to mend throughout the record. Her surreal lyrics referencing flickering sparks and perpetual gloom keep the concrete details on a hush. However, the emotional pain at its core lingers vividly. She sings of a wound that remains open indefinitely; the kind of pain that numbs the heart while slowly weighing it down.
LeGrand consoles as an outsider looking in, well aware she doesn’t hold the cure or the answers. Despite admitting to her faults, she still carries a powerful sense of empathy in Depression Cherry to comfort a weathered spirit. “I’m on your side,” she sings in “Space Song,” and the rest of the album stands as a reminder of that fact. These direct sentiments by LeGrand stick out of the murk as a helping hand. “You know you’re not crazy,” she ensures in “Wildflower.” A change of scene may be good for a short time, but assuring words like hers go a long way.
The goal of LeGrand in Depression Cherry is for down-and-out listeners to once again experience a moment of bliss like what’s captured in “Levitation,” one of the standouts in the album. “There’s a place I want to take you,” she sings, smothering with love and affection. Her attempts to help and heal call to mind a particular lyric from the band’s past. In Teen Dream closer “Take Care,” LeGrand once offered “I’ll take care of you, if you asked me to, in a year or two.” She returns to sing the same, but this time she knows to just go for it.