Beach House's new single "Sparks" started streaming this week and when I heard it my jaw nearly hit the floor. Between "Teen Dream" and "Bloom" they'd become a band with a more fully realized, complete sound, moving away from the concept of a duo playing sparse dream pop in their living room and becoming a weightier, Cocteaus-inspired full band. And now, with "Sparks", it seems they'd done it again, adding MBV's head-swirling walls of feedback to add even more awesomeness to a sonic palate that somehow hadn't yet topped out on its awesomeness.
But the full album isn't "Sparks Parts I-IX", and that's undoubtedly a good thing, because no band wants to be tarred with an MBV-lite brush. "Depression Cherry" is a return to the more subdued, inward-looking sound of "Teen Dream", a succession of blissful lullabies recorded with a more expensive bag of production tricks. I've been listening to "Teen Dream" a lot lately, and I'm more than happy to get a more grown-up sounding sequel. The more upbeat and commercial sounding "Bloom" has been bypassed almost completely.
The opener, "Levitation", is a slow burning ballad that builds via gentle repetition like a "Playing With Fire"-era Spacemen 3 track. Whereas "Myth" set the tone for "Bloom" and clearly indicated that the album was going to be something they'd never attempted before, "Levitation" also gives notice that its time to get tucked in and concentrate on the upcoming forty minutes of dream pop minimalism.
"Space Song" is a likely future single, with its insistent rhythms, simple but catchy ascending scale keyboard riff, and wailing guitar solos. The album then hits a more downtempo middle section, much like "Teen Dream" did, but there will be no room-filling "10 Mile Stereo" acceleration to the finish here. "Days of Candy" leads off with a choir and spends several minutes gathering its strength for the swampy, candlelit finish. It's like "Irene" ("Bloom"'s closing track) played at half speed, with all its muscle and arrogance stripped away, leaving only winsome apologies in its place.
"Depression Cherry" is said to be a reaction to the band's increase in popularity, a return to their simpler roots. That's clearly true even from the most cursory first listen. But it also sounds almost nothing like their early albums. "Depression Cherry" might be their most studio-centric album, taking them closer to the Cocteaus' form of precision-refined studio wizardry where reproducing that sound in concert becomes ever more difficult.