Beach House Primer

Dive Into The Band’s Deep, Rich Catalog

On February 20th 2018 » By Andrew Winistorfer

Beach House

In March, Vinyl Me, Please is releasing a remastered deluxe edition of Beach House’s sophomore album, Devotion. Since the album landing on your doorstep might be your introduction to the band, here we break down the band’s deep catalog, which has six other releases worth exploring.

Formed in 2004 when Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand—both of whom had just recently graduated college—found themselves in different bands in the Baltimore indie rock scene (Baltimore spawned Dan Deacon, Ponytail, Future Islands and more). After playing together in a different band that siphoned off members, it eventually just became the two of them writing songs on an organ and a guitar. Eventually, they’d have a live drummer, but it’s remained Legrand and Scally since the beginning.

It’s hard to peg Beach House to a genre beyond that big nebulous “indie rock,” but after 15 years and seven releases, they are a genre unto themselves. Because they haven’t expanded their palette that much, the beauty of the Beach House catalog is tracking how they recontextualized their sound again and again, adding more drums, making the songs faster and shinier, and moving back again to their lo-fi sound. While their albums all sound similar, they all stand as unique entities.

This primer takes you through the band’s catalog, and will allow you to track the band’s evolution before and after Devotion.

Beach House

Recorded in 2 days, Beach House’s debut LP is a lo-fi mirage, the scrappiest version of an album that can be described as so lush you could sleep on it. The album was the culmination of a couple years of experimentation and live shows. “Apple Orchard” is the song that ran through MP3 blogs (remember those?), but for my money “House on the Hill” is the album’s centerpiece.

Teen Dream

If Devotion is the album that put Beach House on every indie fan’s radar and represented the first appearance of the Beach House we know now, Teen Dream was the one that put them in the first two lines of festival lineups. After touring Devotion for close to two years—and writing on the road, as “Norway” debuted during promotion of the album—the band worked with producer Chris Coady for the first time, and suddenly the shimmery, beautiful organ sounds became even more shimmery and beautiful. Teen Dream features linchpins of the Beach House live show, like “Zebra” and “Take Care.”

Their Cover Of Gucci Mane’s “Lemonade”

While Beach House have a reputation, in their music at least, of being pretty serious, anyone who’s been to a live show knows that they’re really funny and personable during the in-between song banter. They also sometimes cover songs you wouldn’t expect them to cover. Case-in-point: They played a sinister, amazing cover of Gucci Mane’s “Lemonade” at festival spots in 2010. My favorite part of this cover is that some media outlet (I can’t find this now, but if someone could help me out @ me) interviewed them at the time about “their new song about lemons” and they had to explain it was a Gucci Mane cover. It’s impossible to imagine someone interviewing Beach House in 2018 not knowing Gucci Mane.

Bloom

Bloom shot Beach House to the stratosphere; it delivered on all the sonics of Teen Dream, and even debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard charts. Listening to this album is like riding a horse into an infinite vista, where you will meet everyone you’ve ever loved.

Depression Cherry & Thank Your Lucky Stars

In August 2015, Beach House released their fifth LP, Depression Cherry which they promoted the usual ways, by doing tons of interviews, appearing on late night TV and releasing singles. It had a bunch of songs that felt of a piece with Bloom—the highlight being “Sparks.” A month after Depression Cherry came out, the band surprise dropped another album, Thank Your Lucky Stars, a darker, more lo-fi album—in some ways, it’s the spiritual sequel to Devotion—that they didn’t want to have fall into the “traditional” album cycle of promotion. As a set, the albums are a good encapsulation of everything Beach House had done leading up to 2015; the lo-fi, the widescreen and everything in between.

B-Sides & Rarities

Compilations of B-sides and rarities are often either released at the end of a long career as a vault clearing, or as a way for a band to reset after a long creative period. In Beach House’s case, this release feels like the latter, a way for them to put a capstone on their last six albums, as they look forward to whatever is next. Like, maybe a new album in 2018. The fun highlights here are the remixes, because you don’t realize how malleable Beach House songs are until you hear them fussed up.

We made a Beach House playlist for your sampling/education purposes. Check it out below:

New Album in 2018

Last week, Beach House dropped “Lemon Glow,” the lead single from their upcoming seventh album. It’s due out later this spring—no hard date has been announce yet—but this new single is a perfect appetite whetter. Build on a gauzy drum and organ figure, it’s cut with Legrand’s lush vocals and occassional searing blasts of guitar from Scally. Turn the lights down low, indeed. This vaulted to the top of our most anticipated album of 2018 list in four minutes and five seconds.

We made a Beach House playlist for your sampling/education purposes. Check it out below:

Andrew Winistorfer

Andrew Winistorfer

Andrew Winistorfer is Vinyl Me, Please’s Head of Editorial, VMP Classics A&R, and an editor of their book, 100 Albums You Need In Your Collection. He’s written Listening Notes booklets for seven Vinyl Me, Please Classics releases. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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