Depression Cherry is more than just music

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Luke Mcquire

Depression Cherry, the stunning fifth album by Baltimore dream pop band Beach House, sees the duo, consisting of keyboardist and vocalist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally, refine and evolve their gift for crafting lush soundscapes that charm and hypnotize the listener. Beach House started off a secret, but after the release of their 2010 masterpiece Teen Dream, the band reached indie-rock stardom.

The response to their coronation to Most Favored Band status was 2012’s Bloom, a grand and mythic album that polished the band’s dusty lo-fi aesthetic to showcase crystal-clear production. Still, the act retained its signature sound that made listeners fall in love in the first place.

So how does Depression Cherry figure in Beach House’s canon? Upon first listen, it may seem like a return to the band’s roots, but this record proves to be their most experimental yet. “Sparks,” the first single, opens with an incantation before erupting with the wailing sound of Scally’s guitar and Legrand’s creaking organ. Delicately layered on top of the squall is Legrand’s voice—truly a thing of deep, melancholy beauty. Beach House has always been one step removed from shoegaze, and here, the band embraces the genre and creates an album highlight unlike any song in their catalog.

“Sparks” included, Depression Cherry seems to operate on two distinctive sonic levels, best described through analogy: submerged underwater and among the stars. Naturally, “Space Song” best represents the cosmic aspect of the album, with Legrand’s breathy vocals, synths that blip like satellites and Scally’s soaring guitar setting the whole song on fire. Meanwhile, album closer “Days of Candy”—one of the most beautiful songs, Beach House has ever recorded—has a murky feel as if engulfed, and the song quietly bubbles until Legrand rises above the tide.

What unifies these sounds and ultimately makes Depression Cherry a great record rather than just a good one is the ineffable feeling Legrand conveys with her vocals and cryptic lyrics. Beach House does not shy away from emotion, but it can be difficult to discern exactly what they’re communicating. The most immediate answer may be heavy sadness, but in the key lies not in the music itself but what we associate with it.

The band provides us with a mirror to project our own emotions onto their music, and this mutability from listener to listener is truly special. Legrand’ and Scally’s lyrics are intensely intimate, giving us the opportunity to latch onto whatever we personally hold onto that makes us search for emotional music, though few can rival Beach House’s impassioned delivery.

Mid-album highlight “PPP” provides us with such opportunity for catharsis; Legrand addresses the listener, “Out in the heartland/ I looked in your eyes/ Asked, ‘are you ready for this life?’” Legrand wants to engage the listener, and at the song’s climax, as she howls at the sky, she invites us to let go and connect with her in that moment.

The best music is not merely something to hear, nor is it a passive experience. It should be something that we feel, and in this way, Depression Cherry is as vital an album as any you’ve heard this year.

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