Album Review: Beach House – ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’

beachhouseOver the course of the past decade, Beach House have occupied their own corner of the modern musical landscape by churning out steady, meditative dream pop with dependently outstanding results.

Starting from their self-titled debut album, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have remained both remarkably consistent and confident in their artistic vision and musical presentation.

Legrand’s ethereal vocals, paired with Scally’s nimble guitar lines, provide the foundations for the band’s sound, but the adagio blooming experience of their albums have quietly turned the duo into one of the premier acts of the new millennium.

Thank Your Lucky Stars’ comes just two months after ‘Depression Cherry‘, and with the hue of that album still sharpening into focus, the band’s sixth album arrives on completely different terms than any of their previous releases.

During the album’s announcement, the band noted that these songs were written after ‘Depression Cherry’s, but recorded during the same sessions. The sublime craftsmanship and palatial production of the previous three records is cast aside as they retire back into the creaky dim lit bedrooms that defined their earlier work.

Majorette’ gracefully opens with a subdued arabesque spiral comprised of swirling guitars and breathtaking sighs. “Watch it spin right back”, Legrand astutely sings as Scally’s guitar slowly builds momentum. It’s subtle in both production and songwriting, but is an especially pleasant reminder of the effortless and engaging beauty of the latter. The casual feel of the album highlights the duo’s remarkable ability to gel with and play off one another. ‘All Your Yeahs’ begins with nimble guitars, but eventually evolves into an understated synth twinkle that eases and comforts.

Wistful heartbreak has always been a common motif for Beach House, but the languorous ‘She’s So Lovely’ sees the duo return to the simple candle-lit noir that characterized ‘Devotion‘. Scally’s muted guitar prickles unravel and add an alluring tension to Legrand’s barbed femme fatale exhales. Its elegiac sentiment and ghostly production hark back to the wraith love that defined songs such as ‘Gila’, but it’s clear since then they’ve only become more refined as musicians and songsmiths. These songs may be dressed down and looser than their most recent efforts, but the immaculate songwriting remains consistently enthralling.

Beach House have always been outstanding balladeers with their musical patience and wistful sentiment, but the lyrics on ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ are more character driven than anything they’ve done before. ‘Common Girl’ is a haunting basement waltz that depicts a nominal existence with descriptive snapshots of a ‘girl with a lazy eye’ and her dreary surroundings. The propelling lull of ‘The Traveler’ follows as Legrand tries to break free from her faded romantic guilt. “Would I be acting up, if I said it’s not enough”, she ponders as guitars contort behind her goose-bump inducing vocal swells. Elsewhere, the biggest grower ‘Rough Song’ has Legrand chronicling a tragic familial cocktail maelstrom, where the Bloody Marys run thicker than the blood related bonds.

Although this album is clear a return to musical simplicity, it is also has its fair share of experimentation. The metronomic ‘One Thing’ bobs with a heavy empyreal shoegaze whir, as Legrand drops both a wispy f-bomb and a kindling hallelujah. It gives a glimpse into some of the new sonic avenues that the band might explore next. The quintessential ‘Elegy To The Void’ is a cosmic journey into the abyss, Scally’s usually pristine playing transformed into an increasingly jagged squeal of feedback and fuzz.

And on the album’s foggy prom-dance closer ‘Somewhere Tonight’, Legrand gives us arguably her finest vocal performance to-date. She exquisitely inflects her romantic longingness over a chamber doo-wop swirl with a commanding grace and delicacy that few can summon.

Beach House’s melodic sustained drone has remained relatively consistent over the course of their existence, but their songwriting and emotional resonance continues to mesmerize. Legrand and Scally are maestros at capturing the beauty in the scintillating moments in our lives with their idyllic tones and savvy musicianship, yet underneath lies that undeviating drum tick reminding us that life treads forward.

With this release, fresh off the heels of ‘…Cherry’, it is important to remember to take the time to appreciate the flowering beauty of the band. Their evocative anthocyanin imagery can get lost in the pandemonium of modern society, but like an autumnal equinox falling into a winter solstice, there’s a comfort and beauty in maintaining an awareness of the moment – as fleeting as that time may be.

During their career Beach House have captured these evanescent instances with remarkable clarity, and the duo’s sixth record continues their string dazzling brilliance.

(Trey Tyler)

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