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Beach House

Recalling the dream-pop days of MAZZY STAR, YO LA TENGO and GALAXIE 500, charming American indie duo BEACH HOUSE have hit chart-land pay-dirt since joining the ranks of the Sub Pop roster in 2009. Spearheaded from 2004 by Baltimore, Maryland pair, Victoria Legrand (hushed vocals, organ) and childhood buddy Alex Scally (guitar, keyboards), their cinematic consecration was down to Vicky, who is the niece of French-born film composer MICHEL LEGRAND.
Described lazily by pundits as like NICO fronting COWBOY JUNKIES, the duo’s pace was sedate, simplistic and sombre, eerily alluring on their eponymous BEACH HOUSE {*7} debut for Carpark Records in October 2006; released in the UK by ROBIN GUTHRIE’s Bella Union, the following August. Hypnotically horizontal and glowing gossamer-like in their (s)lo-fi creations such as `Apple Orchard’, `Saltwater’, `Tokyo Witch’ and the near 8-minute finale, `Heart And Lungs’, their light was turned on by day-glo dimmer-switch. Much of the same could be said for 2008’s DEVOTION {*7}, another set of dark and light shades and moods, with Legrand fizzing her torch-like vocals on `Wedding Bell’, `You Came To Me’, `Heart Of Chambers’ and `Turtle Island’.
As aforementioned, signed to Sub Pop (although only in their homeland), BEACH HOUSE worked with producer/engineer Chris Coady on third set, TEEN DREAM (2010) {*8}. A commercial breakthrough when breaching the Top 50, the young pair had learned to combine their wintry coda with eclectic flourishes, while maintaining their graceful swoons on the likes of `Zebra’, `Norway’, `Walk In The Park’ and 80s-esque `Used To Be’.
2012’s BLOOM {*8} surprised even their most ardent critics when it topped the indie charts and strolled into the official Top 10 for a week (UK Top 20). While one can’t pinpoint the whys and wherefores of their sudden rise (elements of COCTEAU TWINS and shoegazing MBV possibly the missing link), the glistening and shiny-pop feel of `Wild’, `Myth’, `Lazuli’ and `Wishes’, were comforting without being too twee.
On the crest of a “neu-wave” (think SPECTOR sharing studio space with DUSTY and STEREOLAB), BEACH HOUSE repeated their chart prescription with the gloriously crystalline and cool DEPRESSION CHERRY (2015) {*8}. A vast endless soundscape encompassing Victoria’s hallucinatory vox, an intimate and insular minimalism was the order of the day on swooning earworms, `Sparks’, `Levitation’, `Space Song’ and the oxygen-piercing `Beyond Love’ (The KORGIS, anyone?).
Only a few months down the line, and probably to their detriment as a commercial prospect (despite reaching #39), quick-fire follow-up THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS (2015) {*7} had a certain political bent. Fans had barely worn out the grooves of their previous outing. Ethereal dream-pop approaching twee shoegazing, LeGrand served up her dewy dulcet diaphragm on continental-60s/film-noir buffers such as `Majorette’, `She’s So Lovely’ and `All Your Yeahs’. Without breaking a drop of sweat from her sullen brow, she continued to spread words of poignancy a la idols HOPE SANDOVAL, Trish Keenan, Laetitia Sadier and Alison GOLDFRAPP on the glidingly horizontal `Elegy To The Void’ and finale `Somewhere Tonight’ – all slo-fi burners for the diligent.
Switching producers from ever-ready Coady to ever-spacey SONIC BOOM, the BEACH HOUSE pair dispatched their aptly-titled 7 (2018) {*8}; an inventive set that upscaled live drummer James Barone into the fray. The cohesive album was another steady commercial success in both the US and UK. There was certainly elements of LUSH, SLOWDIVE and a plethora of other shoegaze/neo-psych acts of yesteryear, but in their rustic, rainy-day songs like `Dark Spring’ and `Dive’, or the buoyant `Black Car’ and the warped `Lemon Glow’, their skill was to take their music beyond eclectic daydream pop.
© MC Strong/MCS Oct2015-May2018

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