beachhouseIs Beach House sticking two fingers up to the tyranny of change on their fifth album, Depression Cherry? Perceived wisdom maintains that constant musical transition bears the seal of authenticity. Arguably, titan, critically adored bands look like snakes constantly shedding their skins. The Beatles took a glorious trip from exuberant rock ‘n’ roll to the epitome of psychedelia, The Clash went everywhere else, a veritable world tour of influences, and Radiohead went weird and electronic. Change is often exciting, but some, a small few, create a sound that is so perfectly crafted and distinct that it is not beholden to the same rules as everyone else. Beach House is one of those rare bands.

The first thing you will notice about Depression Cherry is, of course, just how similar it sounds to their previous two albums. The same swirling guitars and synths dominate as does the prevailing sense of melancholy. It’s somewhat ironic then that the album’s dominant lyrical theme is actually one of, albeit inescapable, change. “The arrow of time…is the medium of creativity in terms of which life can be understood”…”Even as we exchange hellos, they seem to grow transparent” are just two quotations the band choose to illuminate their album. It’s a perplexing duality. Or is it? A constantly touring band can have only a few constants, music being the main one. It is their anchor.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some small variations. The overall sound, as showcased by beautiful opener ‘Levitation’, is less fussy than seen on Bloom, the instrumentation more streamlined and restrained. Depression Cherry is also less bombastic than its predecessor making for a more natural, less forced affair. In some ways it’s a more comfortable, inviting place to reside, like a literal Beach House it’s an escape. Elsewhere ‘Sparks’ exhibits direct influence from My Bloody Valentine, Legrand and Scally making it very much their own.

More than ever nostalgia dominates, Legrand clearly wishing that she could make passing moments last just a little bit longer. Indeed, much of Depression Cherry conjures up the same themes as those that concern Richard Hawley, Beach House often sounding like an electronica version of the Sheffield throwback. Nowhere is this more obvious and satisfying than on album highlight ‘Space Song’, where Legrand asks one of her ghosts, “Tender is the night for a broken heart/who will dry your eyes when it falls apart?” Scally’s slide guitar swoops and soars and the synth arpeggios combine to make one of the year’s most memorable moments. It leaves the following track, ‘Beyond Love’, flat by comparison, lacking the textural variety of its predecessor.

The album quickly picks up again with ‘10:37’ (the drum machining here distinctive by Beach House’s admittedly low standards), where the ethereal singing perfectly encapsulates Legrand’s ability to capture moments of peace out of constantly shifting days and nights. ‘PPP’ – possibly standing for ‘piss poor planning’ or murdered Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini – is back in the realm of ‘Space Song’. A lover is having doubts about marriage, the reference to the director comparing heartbreak to murder. ‘Wildflower’ drifts by with barely a ripple. The succinctly tranquil ‘Bluebird’ gracefully sets up choral album closer, ‘Days of Candy’, a departure of sorts for Beach House that doesn’t quite come together.

Still, Depression Cherry is certainly Beach House’s most homogeneous and cohesive effort with the same moments of outstanding and distinctive wonder as previous albums. The band remains outside of time, yet within mind, and maybe, just maybe, they’re not challenging conventional wisdom, but simply doing what they’re doing, what they’ve always done. And that’s just fine by me.  

Release Date 28/08/2015 (Bella Union)

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Chris Gilliver

I started out writing for the Manchester Evening News as a freelance journalist back in 2008. The idea that I would be given free access to music and gigs seemed somehow miraculous to me, and I proceeded to take full advantage of the situation. When the M.E.N. decided to constrict its coverage to only the very biggest bands, Simon Poole approached me with a plan to make sure that all the very talented musicians of this world that pass through and/or live in Manchester would not go unnoticed. As the New Releases editor here at Silent Radio Towers, it remains my proud duty to cast a critical eye over the music and reviews that come my way in a manner that is both supportive and fair. Above all, I strive to write as entertainingly possible. Favourite musicians include the Pixies, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Mercury Rev, Os Mutantes, The Knife, Beach House etc etc. I'm a firm believer that all genres (except nu-metal) contain music of great quality...