Beach House – Depression Cherry
by David McDevitt (International Affairs/Economics), published August 28th 2015
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Going into my first listen of /Depression Cherry/, I had the lone goal of figuring out what exactly the title meant, because the words “depression” and “cherry” are words that I never expected to be used side-by-side in any context. I could not give you an answer to that after however many times I listened to it. But I did notice something unusual for a Beach House album. /Depression Cherry/ is not as pristine as the group’s previous works. It has moments of fuzz, moments of distortion, moments that ultimately create an unusual feeling from this very consistently pleasant group.
It would be safe to say that genre-labeling does not harm Beach House like it harms other acts. Beach House makes dream pop, and what people think of when they hear the words “dream pop” probably sounds a lot like Beach House. After the reception and critical-lauding of /Teen Dream/ and /Bloom/, you could safely say that Beach House makes dream pop rather well. One can imagine dream pop as laying on the grass watching the sparse clouds in a clear sky. The music moves around you as your body wants to lie still. Beach House’s most recent works served this image very well. /Teen Dream/ and /Bloom/ were both very clean and moving albums. They were dark and spacey albums that, despite their solemn nature, always felt very nice. /Depression Cherry/ brings something new to the Beach House catalog, and it can be heard almost immediately. Hinted at in “Levitation” and made very apparent in “Sparks,” we have the first Beach House album with moments without perceptual clarity, with dark clouds rolling instead of the normal open skies. Parts of “Space Song” bend, portions of “Days of Candy” sound as if they’re floating through space rather than lying on the ground. In Beach House’s discography, /Depression Cherry/ feels as if it could be a step in a different direction at times.
But while parts of the album excel at creating this strange feeling out of dream pop, the weakness of /Depression Cherry/ comes from its lack of diversity. It sounds like a Beach House album in almost every other way. “Sparks” stands out from the rest, being the biggest example of the aforementioned new distorted direction. But certain tracks, “Wildflower” for example, could be slipped into previous albums without anyone batting an eye. The percussion at the base of most Beach House songs over the years appears to be unchanged. In fact, listen to “Space Song” off of /Depression Cherry/ and “Walk in the Park” off of /Teen Dream/, and you will hear the exact same drum sample and very similar songs. Rather than experiment with their successful formula in an attempt to mark a new era in their discography, Beach House have chosen to make /Depression Cherry/ a continuation of their work from the past decade.
I imagine a world where Beach House made an album of songs like “Sparks,” and I imagine it being a shocking and refreshing experience. We have a good album in /Depression Cherry/, but it narrowly misses being a really good one. A Beach House album is always a treat to hear, but this one doesn’t blow anybody away. Beach House could have progressed wonderfully with the changes conceived in this album, but with half of the album recorded those changes appear to have burned out, leaving the rest of the album to be filled out with a good but duplicated sound.
Recommended Tracks: “Levitation Song”, “Sparks”, “Days of Candy”