Album of the Week: Beach House, 'Depression Cherry'

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Beach House, 'Depression Cherry'
Beach House, 'Depression Cherry' (© 2015 Sub Pop Records)

Last week, a Pitchfork review gave Beach House's new album, Depression Cherry, an 8.4 rating (out of a possible 10), placing it among the best music of the year so far. In an earlier, warm and positive interview with the taste-making website, the band struggled to come up with lucid ways of explaining what they're doing with their music.

It's not like Beach House are trying to explain the changes in what they've produced; their signature sound hasn't changed much over the course of five albums. But multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally said that "… describing a moment of creativity is impossible."

Alex is being modest; he and bandmate Victoria Legrand did as well as anyone I've ever interviewed in explaining where they come from geographically and spiritually, and how they handle the machinations of the industry.

In our Theft of the Dial interview, Alex said there is "dumbing down of quality" in our culture, and — in an admittedly encouraging way — Alex described public radio across the country representing "one last sliver of dignity!" The Baltimore band maintain their specific standards by trying not to overreach, or as they put it, they "don't want to be part of the problem."

Instead, Alex and Victoria said they wanted to stay just big enough to fill First Avenue without having to push it further. Well, this year they added a second show at the venue after the first sold out (Sept. 22 and 23). If they can make a living doing what they love to do and get to play live for people who love them (which they consider an honor), what could be any better? They try to resist emerging into the mainstream, even going so far as to take VW to court to stop it using a synthetic Beach House sound for a commercial.

Beach House also lament that staying " true to indie culture" has become a diluted ideal, too. In Pitchfork, Victoria threw out the idea of communing some kind of conference of like-minded artists in the business who need a label that guarantees a certain quality, one that values how art is made and from which root it comes as the most important part of the process.

It's beautiful to watch this kind of band and the type of people that they are attain grander status in their own way. I think we humans can and do pick up on this quality if it's present. Like the drone, not drones, that back their songs, there's a quality behind Beach House's sound that works in the same way, subconsciously. We keep trying to put it into words: reveling in how the band painstakingly reassemble the sounds they make on vintage gear, apparently including more than 20 organs and analog synths; stroking the plush, gorgeous, deep-red CD package, made from that slightly too-smooth over-the-top greeting cards are made from; and claiming there's some little something in their sound that resembles that quality.

That feeeeel they have is, like the name "Beach House" suggests, linked to sunnier times in the past. Victoria's voice often sounds like a choir of angels or like '60s girl groups. Beach House proved with their Theft of The Dial that they mesh it organically with the sound of classic, influential bands like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and My Bloody Valentine. The short chat we shared reminded me why I feel so blessed to be doing what I do, playing music that we believe is infused with this kind of quality.

Alex and Victoria could do a splendid job of deejaying if they wanted to, or if they ever got tired of just composing and touring. But I trust that they would only do it if it could be done on their terms. They're reliable like that, but as The Guardian pointed out in another very positive review, "Reliability is seldom given its due in art."

It is compelling then, that Beach House seem to be making it work and getting some of their dues. Making music with just enough grandeur to make them appear slightly aloof, mysterious … and about as depressive as a cherry.

Beach House's Depression Cherry is out now on Sub Pop Records.

Audience ratings for this album


Among The Current's listeners who submitted a rating for this album, 100 percent of them gave it 5 out of 5 stars. Poll closed at 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept 4.

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  • Theft of the Dial: Beach House Baltimore duo Beach House stopped by The Current studios to chat with Mark Wheat, take over our airwaves and play some of the songs they're feeling lately.
  • Beach House performs in The Current studio Three albums into an astronomic career, Beach House is the critically renowned project of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, Baltimore natives who make ethereal dream-pop sound easy.

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