“Depression Cherry” is the musical equivalent of a warm bath

Latest album from Beach House is rich, ethereal and beautiful


“Depression Cherry” opens with a slow burn: a single organ tone which grows into an airy open chord, buoyed by the introduction of a light, tinkling electronic drum loop, all of which faintly crescendo to meet the rich, gentle voice of lead singer Victoria Legrand. Echoing pianos swirl together as layered backing vocals intone wordless accompaniment. There is a restrained sense of joy under the dark, almost-brooding arrangement: it sounds like a slow-dance number from a 1980s movie, stripped of gaudiness and cliche, bared down to a beautiful, emotional core.

This is the music of Beach House, a duo from Baltimore, Maryland. Shimmering and textural yet deceptively minimalist, the songs on “Depression Cherry” stretch well beyond the confines of the “dream-pop” label often applied to the band. Take second track “Sparks,” which places a sharp electric guitar riff over looped, heavily echoing vocals before introducing a heavy, slightly dissonant keyboard progression. The result is dense and lush, the synthetic quality of the keyboard contrasting with Legrand’s hushed vocals and the sweeping scope of Alex Scally’s guitar.

Beach House has been around since 2004 and has gained consistent critical acclaim since their 2006 debut, “Beach House.” Through 2012’s “Bloom,” Beach House’s sound progressed slowly from extremely stripped-down and somewhat experimental to something larger, in some ways closer to indie-rock, featuring more prominent drums and songs slightly more in line with other contemporary electro-pop.

“Depression Cherry,” characterized by the band as a return to their early work’s simplicity, feels more like a synthesis and a great step forward. The songs certainly are simpler, the arrangements consisting only of keyboard, guitar, voice, electronic drums and limited additional synth ornamentation. They’re also incredibly catchy, to the point that several songs sound vaguely familiar on the first lesson. This is not to say that “Depression Cherry” sounds unoriginal; rather, the melodies are so cleverly composed that they feel inherently satisfying, like something you forgot you knew.

Mid-album song “10:37,” for instance, has more in common in terms of form with a folk song or a spiritual than with anything in contemporary pop. The melody is simple, foregrounding the reverb-laden production and elusive lyrics like “Here she comes, all parts of everything / Stars in the motherhand / With the dark, thunder above you / Come to a song.”

“Depression Cherry” is a striking album, mellow and filled with little complexities that grow more apparent with each listen. The songs are masterfully crafted and arranged to form a cohesive musical aesthetic, a swirling wall of sound at once melancholy and deeply satisfying. From its opening note to the fadeout of the closing guitar riff, “Depression Cherry” is something to experience, a step beyond anything else Beach House has done before.

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