Beach House: 7 (Bella Union)

Storied Baltimore dream pop outfit return with possibly their strongest set to date

Released May 11th, 2018 via Bella Union / By Emilie Kneifel
Beach House: 7 (Bella Union) Beach House engulfs but doesn't drown out; it amplifies thoughts and renders them crystalline. Maybe because they’ve been around for so long (est. 2004!), or maybe because what they create lights up parts of our insides that we’d forgotten, their shoegaze has always felt just a little bit familiar, like déjà vu or a half-memory. That their newest album, 7, is their seventh feels somehow wrong, as though the sum of what they’ve made shouldn’t be quantifiable in that way. They have always felt both so constant and so boundless, these new-colour-inventors who point out the perceivable — what already existed, but heretofore had no name — and grant it its own crackling life. But somehow, on 7, they’ve pushed further still, deftly parsing and augmenting the nuances of the spectrum of human emotion. Some of the album’s songs can’t be recreated live, and there’s something so pure about that, about considering only the truth of the creation, a process that also mirrors the way a certain feeling germinates under specific conditions which may never occur again.

Each song is a world unto itself, interacting only peripherally with the others. The first track, Dark Spring, is like driving through darkness, windows open, the shadowy landscape roiling by. Knowing you’re moving but not being able to see it. Pay No Mind is what every slow dance should feel like: “Baby at night when I look at you/ Nothing in this world keeps me confused,” a love-y clarity that dissipates on Dive: “In eyes, lost in confusion/ Golden hearts, left all illusion.” Lemon Glow is feverish, alien paranoia, and Girl of the Year is a victory that’s already over even as it occurs. Last Ride is Girl of the Year grown up. Where Girl of the Year is deflated, Last Ride is an ending that renews.

L’inconnue Beach Housed me the most. Its introductory choral canons vividly recalled something my mother used to listen to, but not quite. Something that transcended. A voice that made you shiver. I clawed through CDs, Googled vague identifiers, asked my Mum. I clambered at bits of melody as they accumulated, recording what scraps I had in a voice memo called mystery song??? Finally, I recovered enough of it. “Is it Only Time by Enya?” asked my Mom. And it was. The songs aren’t actually all that similar, but they both tug with that nebulous familiarity — always like something I’ve heard before. As recognizable as a well-worn emotion.

Though Beach House’s organs and synths already immerse, their lyrics confirm the conjured feelings. 7’s lyrics vacillate between the minute and the enormous — “My awareness that I'm lucky/ Rolling clouds over cement” — and delve into the deeper and deeper drops that they’re willing to excavate: “And you know I like it/ So I dive to find it.” They toy with the idea that everything adheres to some higher order — “waves crash, mechanical motion,” “the pattern caught in a falling tear” — but also doesn’t: “I skipped a rock and it fell to the bottom.” They embrace everything’s inherent, pulling paradox. They’re getting cozy in the contradiction. But they also identify what will always elude: “I want it all, but I can't have it/ It inches by but I can’t say much.” “I can't keep you there/ You're everywhere.” They still have to watch time as it chafes past and sit by as love seeps into everything.

Their final words ironically encompass exactly what Beach House is, which is something carried by the wind, something which recalls what you intimately know but can never properly articulate. “It’s a whisper/ It's just a whisper/ It's just a whisper.

Band photo credit: Shawn Brackbill