Many of my recent album reviews have come from an inquisitive place, and Depression Cherry by Beach House has not forced this trend to stop. In fact, it only made it worse. After having done so many more of these in the past year and a half than I had in the decade before that you start to question part and parcel of the album and the purpose of the album review. What do I owe the album and the band that created this piece of art? What do I owe the reader? I owe them something, but to be honest about the album, or how I feel about the album?
I had mentioned, in much more detail than necessary, how I listen to each album in my review of Radkey’s debut album. By dissecting and revealing the nature of my listening habits, I felt that I was doing a service to the album and the reader. A sort of skeleton key of what I think a reviewer should do before making pronouncements on the quality of a piece of art. (And here, I don’t even necessarily think you should be speaking to the quality in terms of other albums, or music as a whole, but the quality in terms of how successful the artist was at accomplishing their goals. These are two distinct pronouncements.)
What I noticed listening to Depression Cherry was that Beach House was going for something, I just didn’t know what. It’s not that I hadn’t heard Beach House before, but I hadn’t devoted time to them. Not in the way that might be necessary when reviewing an album. So I went back and listened to pretty much everything they did up until this point. And what I gathered was that a). I should have devoted more time to them, and b). I was no closer to coming to grips with what to say about the album other than I really, really liked it. The latter puts me squarely with pretty much anyone who hears Depression Cherry.
There was a lot of fanfare surrounding the album. I had seen it rack up accolades between listens. It is loose, and the music, if it were physical, would slip through your hands. There’s nothing to grasp at, and I wouldn’t be surprised if every review (I half-read only one) contained the word “ethereal.” I’d be wrong to suggest that “ethereal” was what they were going for. This is something they’ve accomplished many times over.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. Looking back on their oeuvre, their music had always been a helium balloon, with Depression Cherry, the string has been cut letting the music go where it needs to go. The extended outro on “ppp” is a prime example of the weightlessness with which Beach House crafts their music. The coda exists suspended until the bottom drops out and elements are stripped to the essential silence before “wildflower” begins.
Reading up on Beach House during one of my listens, I was almost shocked to find that they had considered a few power-pop bands among their influences. Each song seems to me to have come from some un-filmed David Lynch television series, perhaps the reboot of Twin Peaks, rather than the discographies of The Zombies or Big Star. But those sensibilities are there, somewhere underneath, like every song is their version of “The Way I Feel Inside” or “Morpha Too.”
How could I accurately describe what this album sounds like without becoming trite? How could I describe how this album makes me feel without sounding wan? How necessary is it that you know Beach House to like Beach House’s Depression Cherry? What do I give the reader by asking more questions than I answer?
Would you be more prone to pick up this album if I had attempted to describe in exact terms how a song like “10:37” sounds, how Victoria Legrands’ vocals sound nothing like Nico’s despite apparent attempts to compare the two? I shudder at the thought of using the word “lush” ever again to describe music like this.
Would it help the reader if I said that I thought “Depression Cherry” sounds like a pun to describe that fake happiness you put on when you’re in a shit mood—so much so that I consistently type “Depression Cheery”—, or that “sparks” sounds a bit like a song The Edge did the guitar for. “Space song” sounds like a million other songs I love, but it isn’t one of those songs. “Beyond love” reminds me of Wendy Carlos for obvious reasons.
So what is it that will make you listen to this album, as I think you should? I really wanna know.
Article: Christopher Gilson