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Beach House releases second thrilling album of the year

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The moments from Beach House’s “Depression Cherry” that have lingered in my mind the most have always been the smaller ones.

Whether it’s when vocalist Victoria Legrand manages to convey an impossibly wide range of crystal-clear emotions in a single line, or when a few notes from guitarist Alex Scally crack the beautifully monolithic skies of Beach House’s music like lightning, those moments dissipate quickly, but alter the path of the band’s music tremendously.

Unlike the spontaneous flashes of the band’s 2012 album, “Bloom,” and its 2010 effort, “Teen Dream,” “Depression Cherry” (which was released on Aug. 28,) felt like an album of songs whose destinations had been sub-consciously transmitted to the listener before they began their journey with the album.

And yet the many instances in which “Depression Cherry” was tossed abruptly off that pre-determined course were its most thrilling.

In that manner, “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” released on Oct. 16 (barely a month and a half after Depression Cherry), certainly shares DNA with its immediate predecessor. It is less unified in character than “Depression Cherry,” with Legrand beautifully tossing off shade with a wink (”Perfect in the morning/And you ruin it in the evening,” she coos angelically in “One Thing”) and its looser musicality.

But despite those hints of playfulness, “Thank Your Lucky Stars” also pirouettes effortlessly into far darker territory in its six-and-a-half minute centerpiece, “Elegy to the Void,” and its gut-punch of a closing ballad, “Somewhere Tonight.”

But despite its more defined emotional extremes, “Thank Your Lucky Stars” still keeps its cards close to its chest, offering the same small moments of startling clarity at its predecessor. “She’s So Lovely” begins as a gorgeous but unmoored ballad, but is elevated and solidified when Legrand sings the line “castles in the sand,” holding out the “a” in “sand” over the slow-building progression, as if to emphasize the loosening grip of fantasy over the song.

After four minutes of relentlessly marching forward, “One Thing” decides in its final minute to explore the area it has spent its entire existence marching towards. Scally, in an unusually theatrical move, dramatically slices through “One Thing’s” formidable emotional wall with snarling guitar leads that play off of both their surroundings and, as they build, each other.

“All Your Yeahs” morphs – in front of the listener’s eyes – from a tense, unsettled piece to an uplifting, chiming bit of pop. In “Elegy to the Void,” Scally plays the role of “the Void,” enveloping the kaleidoscopic track in layers of terse yet bottomless riffing, pulling Legrand, whose vocals seem to grow more emotionally and physically distant as the song wears on, down with him. And yet Legrand emerges fully in the album’s final act, “Somewhere Tonight.”

She opens with a fantastical, but lonely picture: “pink and blue were dancing/empty floor, shadows lancing.” But even the certainty of that small picture grows fuzzy with her next line, which she turns into a chillingly, immaculately perfect hook: “somewhere in a ballroom tonight.” “Somewhere Tonight,” even more so than the actual “Elegy to the Void,” is truly an elegy to a void, a deeply tangible, almost tragic, lament of longing and fantasy that tears out your heart and leaves nothing in return.

“Thank Your Lucky Stars” is a companion to “Depression Cherry” less in sound than feeling. Each album peaks at unexpected times, with little build up. On both records, Beach House – a band who has always exerted such masterly control of their sound and image – generates catharsis from uncertainty.

For a band to create such an immaculately constructed, yet constantly evolving and fluid album is undeniably impressive. For a band to release two such, equally independent yet brilliant works in less than two months is nothing short of extraordinary.

Jackson Maxwell can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter at @JMaxwell82.

 

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