Do you know how many times I’ve listened to ‘Zebra’ after a rough week and/or a long night? Me neither, but it’s in double figures. When that snare drum snaps in, followed by the shimmer of the malleted cymbal? Then some absolutely extravagant use of the crash cymbal to raise the song up again? (More on this below). That’s it, right there.
Beach House is a hot tub. It’s always an immersive experience, warm, occasionally hitting you with a well-placed jet right where the pain is. I’m not usually a big fan of shoegaze/dream pop/neo-psych, whatever you want to label it. (I read someone from a site that will remain unnamed call Beach House ‘knee-gaze’. Please stop.) But, I love Beach House.
The two from Baltimore have been around for sixteen years now. It is a common trope of music criticism to say that a band sounds like so and so, mixed with such and such. In Once Twice Melody, I heard some Depeche Mode (‘Masquerade’); The Partridge Family (‘Once Twice Melody’); the theme from Stranger Things (ibid.); Stereolab (‘Another Go Around’); and Talking Heads’ ‘Heaven’ (‘Bells’).
But, that’s just me, isn’t it? Your experience will vary. You can sink into it and hear the things you’d like to hear. Beach House is Beach House. This is primarily because of the shape shifting tone and timbre of Victoria Legrand’s voice. (Embarrassing confession: the first few times I heard ‘Zebra,’ I thought it was the guy singing.) Beach House deserves to be its own sonic touchstone. Once Twice Melody is a welcome addition to an impressive body of work.
This album is a double LP, released digitally in four chapters. So, it’s a behemoth, just short of 90 minutes long. That’s a long time in a hot tub. So, I won’t be breaking this album down song by song. And why would you? If you like Beach House, you are going to like some songs better than I did. (A caveat: this album is best late at night with headphones. I tried to listen to Beach House while cleaning the house in the day hours and almost went face down on the couch. I suggest Amyl and the Sniffers if you need to get things done.)
The back to back ‘Another Go Around’ and ‘Masquerade’ are favorites. I read the lyric ‘Another go around and I’m right here beside you’ as a re-writing of the existential truism, wherever you go, there you are. Some people find that comforting; it shakes me to my core and is why I need ‘Zebra’ occasionally.
‘ESP’ is lovely and has the ghost of live drums, but just the ghost, so let me hark back to my first paragraph’s parenthetical. Beach House has said that this album goes away from live drums. I will admit to a huge bias on this subject, but why would you do that? The drums made Teen Dream. I get that kits are a pain to move around and that drummers can be complicated individuals. But, please. In any event, Beach House if you are reading this drop me a line and at least let me bring a tambourine over.
In the meantime, ‘Over and Over’ is wonderful as is and will be played again and again over the end credits of just another day as it fades to black. ‘All the little angels descend.’ We need them and we need Beach House.
Words by Rick Larson