28 August 2015, Sub Pop
The music of Beach House has always been sedate, wave-like and moving; the kind of songs you would listen to whilst drenching yourself in the sun’s rays on a deserted Caribbean coastline. With the arrival of Depression Cherry, it becomes startlingly clear that this is not only a feature of their songcraft but also of their album-craft as well. Depression Cherry indicates a comedown from the dizzying pop crest of Bloom into a foamy synthpop concoction. It’s different, it’s refreshing and it’s just as beautiful as they’ve always been.
The record starts with the woozy ‘Levitation’, decorated with oscillating broken chords that harken back to Bloom’s ‘Myth’. A more uplifting chord sequence however pinpoints a breakaway from the style of Bloom, however; Beach House are very quick to state the identity that they want to promote in this record. ‘Sparks’ only confirms this by dabbling in shoegazy guitars and smothering the synth in uneasy distortion. ‘Sparks’ really portrays Beach House at the peak of their creativity. The obscure lyricism tackling the subject matter of the album title ties into the wavering timbre of the piece very well: ‘From the spine rising through the mind, you give it up; It’s a gift taken from the lips, you’ll live again’ captures the cyclic nature of depression perfectly without ever erring into overindulgence.
a comedown from the dizzying pop crest of Bloom into foamy synth pop
Frustratingly, Depression Cherry does not revisit these levels of experimentation. Instead, the album settles into the pleasant dreampop that we are used to hearing from Beach House contrary to grittiness of ‘Sparks’. This is by no means a criticism; their songwriting has always been expert and the lyrics resonate just as strongly they always have done. So what sets Depression Cherry apart from the previous albums?
Personally, I feel it is the gentle splash of melancholy that simmers throughout the record. Every note matters; the measured melodies and the droning bass give all of the tracks a lush depth but you never quite escape the sadness bubbling up in the album’s undercurrent. Take ‘Beyond Love’ for example; the album’s swooning highlight. The piece is characterised by a falling motif on the electric guitar, injecting a subtle element of grief into its overall sentiment. Quite often, it isn’t as clear as this. What should be a grand chord sequence on ‘PPP’ is dulled by a pensive vocal melody, the acoustic equivalent to rain trickling down a window frame.
Perhaps now you can understand my dismay when I read critic reviews declaring Depression Cherry as “boring”. Depression Cherry isn’t boring, but it is introverted and insightful. At face value it may simply be an easy listen; a placid soundtrack to help you get to sleep at night. Yet beneath its surface it is something far more complicated: an unlikely hero of an album and one of this year’s best.