Listening Experience: Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars

When I wrote my last review, I was tempted to say that at least Beach House had released a single LP. After three double LPs, Depression Cherry’s restraint was somewhat refreshing from a band which showed a tendency to sprawl. While I didn’t find the last release nearly as engaging as other critics, the songs couldn’t be faulted for outstaying their welcome. Then a few weeks later Thank Your Lucky Stars came out. I can’t help but feel the band almost anticipated my unwritten remark.

Beach House has stated that the album is a separate entity and not a companion piece. While some music critics are unconvinced, I’m willing to take the band at their word. Depression Cherry had a predominantly delicate sound. Thank Your Lucky Stars, on the other hand, is much more sombre. It’s as if the album titles were somehow switched.

The overall darker tones of this new album make for a much more engaging experience than its predecessorThe two stand-out tracks “She’s so Lovely” and “All Your Yeahs” expand on the downbeat mood of “10:37” from the last album, but do so in a more realised way. “10:37” sounded like a sketch. “She’s so Lovely” and “All Your Yeahs” flesh out the atmosphere more completely .

While we’re getting into comparisons, the new album also picks up and develops musical ideas which emerged on the previous release but didn’t come to fruition. In my last review I noted the guitar work in “Sparks” because it wasn’t so typically skeletal. In fact, I called it “abrasive”. On two songs, “One Thing” and “Elegy to the Void”, Scally’s guitar is fuller and a dominant rather than a mere stitch in the musical fabric. He distils the urgency of My Bloody Valentine’s sound while imbuing it with a warmth that was an important counterpoint to the mood of the two songs, especially the latter. In fact “Elegy to the Void” is another of the album’s stand out tracks. The richly suggestive lyrics seem to offer a comment on the allure of religion without being entirely despairing despite the bad teenage poetry of the title.

Another lyrical high-point is “Common Girl”. Musically it recalls the plodding countrified lope of “Wedding Bells” – the opener from Devotion. Lyrically, it paints a tangible and stark picture of a woman working the streets. The lyrics are especially effective because while direct in imagery, they’re understated in tone. The mood is cool and observant, almost casual, while the subject matter is anything but. While I doubt Beach House would take any radical musical directions, lyrics of this nature would be a welcome addition to work which tends to be more emotional, suggestive and atmospheric.

Admittedly the differences are nuanced. If you haven’t been won over by the band’s sound this one is unlikely to change your opinion. Once again, Beach House have offered up a very Beach House album. Whereas Depression Cherry bordered on self-parody, on Thank Your Lucky Stars the group have managed to stay on the right side of where being true to one’s self amounts to artistic integrity.

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