Depression Cherry sounds like a Beach House album. All the elements which combine to form the band’s signature sound are present on this their fifth studio release. The keyboards lay a heavy sheet of noise, spindly shimmering guitar lines add ripples throughout the aural fabric, the vocals and drums hover in the mix to form part of the overall atmosphere. Yet the album, unlike prevision releases, failed to draw me in. It had the style but not the chill-up-the-spine substance.
I know I’m a Johnny-Come-Lately to this review. The album was out in August. It’s now the end of October, and there’s even a new Beach House album. All I can say in my defence is life trips up our best reviewing intentions and I wanted to air my views on Depression Cherry before getting to Thank your Lucky Stars.
What’s missing from this album is the theatrical heft of the past.The main reason for the change is a noticeable change in Legrand’s delivery. On the band’s best songs, her voice is throaty and full. I know Beach House have almost become a byword for woozy pop, but Legrand’s voice has been anything but. Her voice has substance, something which is even more apparent live. On this album, the earthiness has been replaced with a bloodless fragility. As a result, the already delicate music is not so much complimented but left too exposed – its simplicity far too evident. The spidery gentle guitar proved when it served as a counterpoint to the voice. In the same register, the voice and guitar are in competition.
The album has its moments. “Sparks” has an effective touch of abrasive guitar at the beginning which provides a contrast lacking in other places. “10:37” follows a fuzzed bass organ melody and in mood wouldn’t be out of place on Closer or Faith. And the vocal harmonies in the chorus lift the song above a mere dirge. And I have to like “PPP” because while it sounds like other Beach House tracks – namely a slowed down “10 Mile Stereo” – it’s a sound which Legrand and Scally do well.
Yet the love wasn’t enough to endear the album as a whole for me for the reason I said. A key element was missing: Legrand’s voice. Beach House, because of their seemingly ethereal sound and commitment to a particular vision, seem a band easy to parody. With Depression Cherry, they may have come close to parodying themselves.