Written Before Listen
Beach House is a pop group that I’ve been wanting to review an album from, luckily, I got more than what I requested and got a quadruple EP from the duo I’ve always liked their dreamy style as well as the introspective and romantic aura that comes with their music as well. With that being said, we got the record and without further ado, let’s get into it.
Beach House’s entire sound is devoted to the art of production, but how do they do that here? They expand their sound even more. I always thought the sound of Beach House was surely dreamy, unique, and takes the dreamlike qualities of the best Cocteau Twins records, but this time around, they expand the reverb-heavy sound to new levels, especially on the vocal end. The vocoder on “Runaway” as well as the euphoric mixing job on “Only You Know” are just examples of quality vocal mixes. They once again take their sound to the max, as their drum machine and the guitar sound is now something so much bigger.
Let’s focus on the lead singer of Beach House, Victoria Legrand. A lot of her vocals are pretty much sugar-coated by the heavy amount of reverb, but I think people underestimate her skill. When comparing her vocal style to people like Liz Fraser and Hope Sandoval, Legrand is probably most fitting to the music. She has a more meditative voice as well as a good ear of what tone to bring on what chord changes. I feel like the instrumentation is the main focus for most Beach House songs, but Legrand’s vocals help with it.
If you’ve listened to Beach House, you know that drum machines, cheap synthesizers, and guitars are their sound. As their sound got more and more known, their sound became dreamier and dreamier. This time around, the drum machines are much thicker, the guitars are distorted and act more like walls of sound, the synths are replaced by more high budget synths as well as software synths. Alongside that, they’ve added more instruments to the table such as acoustic guitars, live drums, slide guitars, strings, and most importantly MELLOTRON!!! A lot of those instruments also get their light of day. The opening track with the acoustic guitar made me excited for the rest of the album and the following track’s distorted guitar got me even more hype. I was then treated with a space ambient like intro on “Pink Funeral”, That’s just the first EP too. The second EP opens up with something super 80s with synth arpeggios and bells being backed up by these vintage 80s drums that just fit like a glass slipper. “ESP” is the mellotron introduction as the strings are super grainy and artificial, just like a mellotron. I also like the use of mellotron on “Over and Over” as the choir is a perfect addition. Later on, I thought I had what I needed to get, but “The Bells” caught me with these slide guitars and strummed acoustic guitars that just work like bread and butter. It was a match I never thought Beach House would make. I will say that almost every instrumental choice I was a fan of.
As songwriting goes, I’ve never related to Beach House’s lyrics, but I always respected them. This time, on the other hand, they really improve their lyrics as well as their structure. Beach House always makes romantic music but something about this album shows love on different sides of the spectrum. Their instrumentals are always romantic but this time around they surface topics like breakups, the art form of music and philosophy but most importantly, these lyrics are more poetic. Beach House wasn’t always the most lyrical, but their vague take on songwriting makes you put your own situation to it, and I think this album is where they mastered the vagueness.
I think nearly every Beach House suffers from this….sameness. I think we already expect what to get from a Beach House record. I think the best Beach House releases are the ones that take their sound to the strongest places, but I will say if that’s the case, This might just be the Beach House record we remember most, despite their veteran status.
I think Beach House outdid themselves here. I loved nearly every track here and the 80-minute showtime they have here is fulfilled. They expanded their sound with larger instrumentation, grand production, simple lyrics and put it together with the typical beach house sound, and that’s why I love it.