Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week's album is 7, the appropriately titled seventh LP from Beach House.
Everytime Beach House makes a left turn, it speaks volumes. The Baltimore duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally has been a consistent force in the indie rock landscape since they emerged with their self-titled debut 12 years ago. They built their following with staggeringly precise dream pop records that floated atmospheres thicker than smog across speaker systems and headphones, drenching records in mood and emotions and a very particular sound. There was a running joke about Beach House that was, well, less a joke than a note that a lot of their music sounded the same, that it was difficult to tell the difference between albums, let alone songs. And while their first two LPs, the aforementioned self-titled affair and 2008’s breakout, Devotion, tapped a very particular vein, they created shockwaves that reverberated throughout the indie scene with 2010’s Teen Dream, an album still very much in Beach House’s territory, but expansive and unlimited in its updated vision. Beach House’s sound is so exceptionally their own, that any deviation from the mean is a seismic event.
Bloom, Depression Cherry, and Thank Your Lucky Stars followed in 2012 and 2015, respectively, with the latter two being served up in back to back months. Perhaps it was due to market saturation, but by the time Thank Your Lucky Stars hit, Beach House seemed to have tapped the magic they conjured for their particular style and sound. How many variations on a theme are possible? With 7, the band’s latest LP, they don’t necessarily answer that question, but once again prove that they’re still far off from a shortage of ideas and are consistently concocting new sounds.
As if to accent this point with an exclamation, 7 begins with a raucous drum fill. No longer aided by legendary indie producer Chris Coady, Legrand and Scally follow the guidance of Spaceman 3’s Sonic Boom on the new LP, bolstering their sound with a low end wallop. “Dark Spring” gallops along with a choked ride cymbal and a bouncy guitar part, before Legrand and Scally come in with dual harmonies that recall M83 at their most earnest. The next track, “Pay No Mind” is a half-time head-nodder, with drums built for a cavern swallowing Legrand’s voice as she sings, “Pay no mind/ It takes time.” She could be talking about the slow-building method of Beach House’s style: This is work that grows, shifts, and builds upon patience and subtleties.
“Drunk in LA,” the album’s midpoints, is one of the record’s stronger tracks, hinting at a climax that the duo gleefully pull back from time and time again. There’s a sweet tension to this song, with the slow build of drums pulsing as Legrand recounts, “I had a good run playing horses in my mind/ Left my heart out somewhere running/ Wanting strangers to be mine.” While Beach House’s sound is tied to the identity of the East Coast’s indie rock scene explosion, here, Legrand perfectly encapsulates both the ecstasy and tragedy of life on the West Coast. “On a hillside I remember/ I am loving losing life,” she sings.
But new lyrical themes aren’t the only uncharted territory Beach House explores on 7. “Lemon Glow” pulses with a warped take on krautrock, hi-hats clicking along to a psychedelically manic guitar line as Legrand’s voice morphs into a faux-chant. “Promise I’ll be fine,” she sings, as the snare drum kicks in and shifts the song to a half-time romp. The beat wouldn’t sound out of place on a mid-2000s rap tape, and Legrand’s swagger is a testament to as much.
“Lose Your Smile” is a straightforward space-ballad, featuring shooting-star synths and heavily strummed acoustic guitar. It’s more close to home for Beach House, but within the context of 7, it’s a thesis—look how far they’ve reached, and look how quickly they can come back. And for that reason, 7 is perhaps the best encapsulation of the way Legrand and Scally have zigged and zagged, shot straight ahead, and leapt for the moon.
Will Schube is a filmmaker and freelance writer based in Austin, TX. When he's not making movies or writing about music, he's training to become the first NHL player with no professional hockey experience whatsoever.