Review: ‘7’ is Beach House’s most candid, paradoxical album yet
In retrospect, Beach House’s 2017 release, “B-Sides and Rarities,” seems more like the dream-pop duo wiping their creative slate clean; they rid their catalog of any unreleased tracks preparing to go in a new, powerful direction. Over an eleven month span, duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally reconstructed their approach, worked with a new producer in Sonic Boom, then delivered their most candid album yet.
“7” is chaotic and paradoxical, an atmosphere Legrand and Scally find a home in. At first glance, it’s tense and fragmented artwork is a large departure from the uniformity and cohesiveness of “B-Sides and Rarities” and 2015’s “Depression Cherry.” Both lyrically and sonically, “7” finds comfort in darkness.
Beach House’s slow, spacey dream-pop is more ominous on this record. The duo relies a little heavier on melancholic timbres and hectic textures than their previous releases. Yet, the intoxicating interaction of minor-keyed sounds results in a soft, nearly blissful bed for Legrand to lay her breathy hymns. “Pay No Mind” layers distorted synth and somber guitar to calmly move Legrand through her infatuations.
The record is satisfied with its slow pace, only increasing its tempo on a few exciting occasions. “L’Inconnue” and “Drunk In L.A.” are entrancing, “Lemon Glow” and “Black Car” are harder with sharp, distorted synths. Scully builds truly interesting relationships when he picks up the acoustic guitar, like on “Lose Your Smile” and briefly on “Last Drive.”
Legrand’s vocals are enchanting, but her lyrics may be even more so. She exhibits a genuine intimacy, but also seems apathetic. Beach House is used to misfortunes in their romantic relationships, but on “7,” the duo embraces them. Pleasant imagery is juxtaposed against life’s pitfalls as the sadness propels Legrand.
In “Drunk In L.A.,” Legrand details her deep isolation in a crowded room, but pairs her discontent with lines like “Strawberries in springtime / pretty happy accidents” and “I am loving losing life.” The bittersweet “Lose Your Smile,” despite its saddening situation, creates conflicting feelings with descriptions like “Sunshine in the rain / comes in rainbows and leaves again.” The track ends with a perplexing, “dreams, baby, do come true.”
While most of the album happily dwells in sadness, some of it resonates with themes of feminism. “L’Inconnue” sympathizes with the infamous unknown girl who took her own life at Seine centuries ago, with Legrand fittingly singing in French for some of it. Her message to the girl can be universally applied: “Little girl, you could be loved / Little girl, you should be loved / The moment you say you know / Is the moment you are.”
“Girl Of The Year” sympathizes with a tragic female character similar to Edie Sedgwick, an Andy Warhol superstar. In the song, Legrand explores the pain that comes from a woman can hiding behind her glamorous exterior. Legrand cites Sedgwick as an inspiration for the album.
“7” proves the duo’s progression as artists. Beach House has always been melancholic in style, but “7’s” darker tones allow Legrand and Scully to be as candid as they’ve ever been.
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