7: Beach House’s Brave New Album


 

Beach House’s new album is masterful. “I’m not sure what it’s trying to do,” I said the last time someone asked me about it, “but they’re doing it masterfully.” Their seventh album, aptly titled 7, shows the band’s maturity. No rotted fruit here. Instead, the music has aged like a fine wine. Lush, dark, and haunting, their sound has only become richer with each record. Bandmates Victoria Legrand and Alexander Scally each bring to the table seasoned lyrics and superlative instrumentation. 7 begins with “Dark Spring,” which sets the stage for the rest of the album. Everything is vibrant, alive, and positively dangerous. “I want to lie in/the cold Orion/the colours missing/Upon the dark spring,” Legrand wails mystically, as though trying to summon the stars.  

Credit: Shawn Brackbill

Lyrically, we’re treated to an album that could be about anything from the standard “love, loss, growing-up,” to the less typical topics of “pagan gods, french lore, and espionage.” Yet, it never feels overstuffed. The lyrics are as breathable as they are multi-dimensional. “Pay no mind” and “Lemon Glow” might be slower, but offer no less of a kick. The lyrics play with themes of romance and ennui, teetering back and forth between the two. “Drunk in LA” sounds beautiful, but hits sharply with lines like “Memory’s a sacred meat/that’s drying over time/On a hillside I remember/I am loving losing life. “Black Car” just gives me the creeps. (Although, I think that’s what it’s supposed to do.) “L’Inconnue” is the clear standout of the album. Its name references the young woman who was pulled out of the Seine River and, after her death, a pathologist was so taken with her expression he had her face cast in mold. Her expression of serene happiness became a morbid sensation amongst her society for some time, and still is throughout literature and art today. Here, Legrand breathes new life into this old myth. Her lyrics give insight into what might be going on behind a calm demeanor. Musically, I feel as though she’s also making a Whitmanesque statement about multitudes.

Credit: SubPop

As for Scally, he doesn’t just arrange music, he weaves it like an ornate, renaissance-inspired tapestry. I distinctly feel like I’m listening to the inside of a kaleidoscope. Tracks such as “Black Car” and “Woo” showcase his skill wonderfully. “Black Car” is as minimalist and as icy as the lyrics proclaim. Synthesizers and guitar are blended seamlessly to create an atmosphere that’s both chilling and intimate. “Woo” reminds me of jumping into a pool. The music does a 360 degree turn there and becomes chlorine-laced and shimmering. “Girl of The Year”  thrums with nostalgia. The music allows enough room for the lyrics to really shine through without compromising sound. The bells and percussion give a hazy “roll the credits” sound. Then again, music should be three-dimensional. That’s the first thing I was told in a tech class way back in high school. Mixes can sound flat and often times do. But there’s no gripe from me here. The music is given its full affordance of space. I could push back a beaded curtain and walk into “Lemon Glow” or fall down a funnel into “L’Inconnue.”

“Last Ride” closes the album with a softer, much more mellow sounding track. The song feels less like winding down and more like reflection So much of  the spacious, three-dimensional sound begins to become quieter without losing its shape. The last line might do the whole album justice. “It’s just a whisper,” sings LeGrand. It sounds like a toast; here’s to the ephemeral. Capturing nothing and everything all at once. Am I any closer to what the album means? No. Is that okay? Absolutely. 7 does everything it needs to, keeping its listeners happily chasing a new thread of meaning with each replay.

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