In 2012, an advertising agency acting for the car manufacturer Volkswagen, spent weeks trying to license the Beach House track ‘Take Care’ for a TV commercial campaign. The band politely declined. So, as is increasingly common in advertising, the agency simply went away and hired a group of session musicians to come up with something suspiciously close to the original. Capitalism. Not that the band are above allowing their music to be used in adverts….but I digress. Point being that Beach House (Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally) make music with a certain something that can’t really be replicated on demand by just any bunch of musos.
Following breakthrough album ‘Teen Dream’ and 2012’s panoramic ‘Bloom’, ‘Depression Cherry’ arrives with comments from the group that seem designed to lower expectations. The new album is being pitched as a ‘return to simplicity’ that will see Beach House ‘ignoring the commercial context in which we exist’. And that is definitely the case.
‘Depression Cherry’ is full of quieter melodies, hooks that only emerge after quite a bit of digging. The sugar-rush guitars of ‘Teen Dream’ are reduced to an echo, the widescreen psychedelica of ‘Bloom’ nearly banished. What we’re left with is a collection of intimate songs that might not set pulses racing. While there are undoubted moments of beauty, such as the swooning reverb of ‘Space Song’ and the lullaby swell of ‘PPP’, chunks of the album pass by inconsequentially. Pretty to look at but of no real bite or substance.
Although the group are positioning the album as a departure from a more commercial sound, this is not an uncommercial album. It’s doubtful it will shake off much of the fanbase who found the band thanks to ‘Teen Dream’, the gloriously weird video for ‘Wishes’ or when their music turned up on a TV show or movie. It is still a good album, just not a great one, reminiscent of their early releases. Hopefully this attempt at retreating from the limelight is temporary.
‘Depression Cherry’ is out now via Bella Union / Mistletone / Sub Pop