Compact Review: Beach House’s Depression Cherry

Beach House – Depression Cherry
Released: August 28, 2015
Rating: 81/100


With the release of their fifth LP Depression Cherry, indie dream-pop auteurs Beach House have safely reached their cruising speed and altitude. Over their past several albums, singer Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally have upscaled, refined and polished the Beach House aesthetic and now we can all just kick back and soak in the warm fuzziness of their sound. Like each of their previous releases, Depression Cherry is a gorgeous record with spacious atmospherics and an intimately emotional core. As owners of one of the most distinctive sounds in alternative and independent music, Beach House was an unlikely candidate for reinvention on their highly anticipated new album but they don’t seem content standing still. Since their breakout release Teen Dream in 2010, this group has become on of the most beloved indie outfits of the decade and Depression Cherry makes slight, but noticeable adjustments to their secret recipe for success.

On Teen Dream and Bloom, the often arpeggiating guitar parts were more subdued and textural but Depression Cherry distorts the guitar sounds and pushes them to the forefront of tracks like the lead single “Sparks” and “PPP”. The dissonance and distortion move Beach House’s whimsical dream-state sound to a darker, more anxious and melancholy place. There have always been a few rainclouds among their generally sunny tunes but as a unified collection, their latest record offers a new degree of tension and drama. The album is called Depression Cherry; if it’s bleak, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Beach House thrives on squeezing big feelings out of intimate moments and this is somewhat lacking on Depression Cherry. The prevailing somberness shows another side of Beach House while muting, to some degree, their best qualities. While revising Teen Dream, I was struck at the power of tracks like “Zebra”, “Walk In The Park” and “Real Love”. The delicately escalating arrangements paired with Legrand’s sweetly hushed vocals can be so achingly beautiful but Depression Cherry, for all its grandeur, has a limited supply of transcendent moments.

However, there is still plenty of beauty to be found on Depression Cherry. As the somber choral harmonies of the final track “Days of Candy” give way to synth plucks and swirling guitar arpeggios, I am struck by Beach House’s ability to illuminate a sad song with rays of hopefulness. The almost tropical sounding guitar solo at the end of “PPP” imbues an otherwise textbook Beach House track with a healthy dose of energy and character. In the same way that The Cure’s Disintegration is able to stitch sorrow and longing into inspiringly beautiful arrangements, Depression Cherry proves that sadness can sound lovely.

Some artists excel at singles while others thrive on a more traditional album format. However, Beach House’s catalogue works best when considered as an entire body of work and with that lens, Depression Cherry is strong entry in their discography. As an album it fails to reach the bright peaks of its predecessorsbut Beach House has found a way flourish while exploring the more somber side of their distinctive soundscape. Depression Cherry is an imperfectly beautiful record that pushes at the edges of Beach House’s established sound and temperament. Dazzling and hypnotic, Depression Cherry is an essential album of 2015.

Top Tracks: “Sparks”, “PPP”, “Days of Candy”

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