With a slew of consistently remarkable, critically acclaimed records, Beach House quickly rose to be the definitive dream pop act of the 21st century. As they began to fall into a comfortable dormancy, the band’s last two albums, Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, played it a little too safe, clicking on the cruise control and riding the familiar sounds of their previous work. Now, with the aid of producer Sonic Boom (Peter Kember of Spacemen 3), Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are taking artistic risks again, mapping out uncharted territory. 7 – undeniably a Beach House record, but a departure nonetheless – breaks the rules established by the Baltimore duo’s recognizable groove.
7 seems to free its creators from shackles we didn’t even realize they were wearing. The album finds Beach House straying from their reliable blueprint, leaning into the overwhelming chaos rather than feeling the need to craft sleek, meticulously polished pop tunes. As they move through spastic tracks like “Dark Spring” and “Dive,” we see Legrand and Scally giving into the raucous energy of frantic drum beats and fuzzy guitars. “Black Car” crafts such an expansive world, and there is a looming anticipation of it all going off the rails at any moment. It’s nearly impossible to predict where 7 is headed from one song to the next. Yet even as each tune has its own distinctive expression, they are all tied directly to the same immovable reference point.
For many fans, Beach House’s chief asset has always been their innate ability to create lush, swirling dreamscapes. Their latest record keeps with the trend, with sprawling tracks like “Lemon Glow” that are all too easy to get swept up by. On “L’Inconnue,” the songwriting process is on full display, beginning with haunting a cappella before adding each textured layer one at a time. Listeners can appreciate the role each instrument plays in constructing such an intricate, lived-in universe. Sliding into grand, melodic arrangements (“Drunk in LA”) and smooth, majestic ballads (“Lose Your Smile”), Beach House make their extensive world-building seem so delightfully effortless.
The album’s forward momentum proves to be impractical to maintain, as it becomes a bit stagnant by the time it reaches “Girl of the Year” and “Last Ride,” but even 7’s lows feel like inspired indie rock ventures. For Beach House, it would appear that restlessness has taken the form of artistic curiosity, and it pays off in droves. A mystical journey best enjoyed with headphones and a glass of wine, 7 is proof that Beach House won’t shy away from learning new tricks. They are too enthralled by the wonder of their craft to ever let their music become ordinary.