Album Review: Beach House – Depression Cherry

Did you ever hear an album that feels like an emotional punch in the gut? Something that squeezes your innards until you want to collapse into a puddle of overwrought, bawling mess on the floor? Sure you have. Nick Drake, Elliot Smith, Jeff Buckley, and The Zombies have all done it to me in the past. Songs so overwhelmingly heartfelt and painful you can’t help but barely keep it together. Then you see some commercial for the ASPCA on TV and you have to go “get something out of your eye” in the bathroom for a few minutes. I’ve been there, man. Hell, we’ve all been there. Beach House have been bringing us dreamy, melancholy, and slightly druggy albums in the key of “sigh” for a few years now. Every since Devotion, each record has excelled at surpassing the previous ones grandeur and lamenting nature. Depression Cherry isn’t changing the formula, but it has refined their wispy sound to a fine, hazy moan. If you’re new to Beach House, don’t let all the sappy, sadsack stuff dissuade you from hitting play on their new long player, or any of their albums for that matter. They’re pieces of artful beauty.

Alex Scally and Victoria LeGrand form the whole of Beach House, and they work together wonderfully. LeGrand has one of those timeless voices. It’s a dark, smokey voice that gives the impression of years of good and bad; stories float within her cadences and lazy delivery. It’s a voice that’s aged much quicker than LeGrand’s merely 34 years. Alex Scally creates these curtains of slow motion revelations in the music, which only accentuates the emotional heft LeGrand delivers. On Depression Cherry, Scally and LeGrand have given us a much needed autumn album. Songs filled with sage advice about love, life, and beyond. The passage of time and getting older is felt on these songs. “Levitation” slowly finds its way into focus like the ocean waves hitting the shore. There’s no rushing to any conclusions. There’s always a sense of heightened perception in a Beach House song. Like slow motion psychedelia. A giddy calliope carries you on some strange trip, with the gray of reality always in the distance. “Sparks” is the most upbeat song on the album, and possibly in the entire Beach House canon. With the most distorted guitar I’ve ever heard(or noticed) in a Beach House song, and with the melding of Scally and LeGrand’s voices this song almost brings a Medicine vibe to mind. “Space Song” floats along nicely with a great slide guitar, steady bass, and some synth strings. Victoria LeGrand emotes wonderfully as always. This is the kind of song you’d play for someone new to the Beach House world and say “This is what they sound like.”

There’s always been a Cocteau Twins sound with Beach House. Maybe not “exactly” like Cocteau Twins, but they both create this ethereal music that feels like AM pop music from some other alternate universe. It’s both sad and happy. Beach House make sad music for happy people. “Beyond Love”, “PPP”, and “Wildflower” all hit hard in the gut, pushing the air from your lungs like a bit of sad news. But somehow, it’s never depressing. Much like the same reason you sit and listen to songs like The Beatles’ “In My Life”, The Zombies’ “The Way I Feel Inside”, or Nick Drake’s “Way To Blue”, we somehow need that down to get back up. Maybe we’re masochists at heart. Maybe I am. Either way, Beach House capture that longing we crave beautifully, and “Days of Candy” is one of the most beautifully written and arranged songs you’ll hear all year. With an almost Brian Wilson-meets-10CC sound, this song aches and creaks like an old love. It’s like walking through a childhood home and seeing hints of the past in every corner. It’s a truly breathtaking song, and one you won’t soon forget.

Depression Cherry is a triumph of mood and emotion. You don’t need to know what Victoria LeGrand is singing to be moved by her. There’s a certain solace in sad songs. I guess it’s knowing that you’re not the only one going through it. Depression Cherry is the voice in the abyss telling you you’re not alone.


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