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CD of The Week

Week of 5/14/18

    Beach House - 7 (Sub Pop)

    Listening to a Beach House album is often like signing up for a journey to places unknown. That destination is seldom if ever describable, but for 12 years and counting, the duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have always made the journey distinct. That journey reaches higher and heavier territory on album 7, their most expansive and experimental collection of songs to date.

    The changes are nuanced but noticeable from opening track "Dark Spring". A crash of drums cascade into one of the most propulsive numbers the duo have ever done. Indeed, rhythm is a more assertive factor than ever before across this album's run time. It may seem like a subtle tweak on paper, but welcoming their live drummer James Barone into the recording studio brings a bold and booming new urgency to the proceedings.

    Ditto the switch from long-time producer Chris Coady to Panda Bear whisperer Peter Krember, who takes what works with the Beach House formula and doctors it with familiar echoes of both contemporary and contrasting artists. The intoxicating lurch of "Pay No Mind" recalls the most recent EMA album, while "Black Car" blossoms over bubbling xylophones that wouldn't sound out of place on early aughts Radiohead or Björk. The most striking and startling example of this, however, is "Dive", which almost passes for a Devotion b-side with its sighing vocals and organ drones before crescendoing with a galloping dance beat straight from My Bloody Valentine's "Soon".

    In the wrong band's hands, this stylistic polyamory could play as scattered, or even worse, opportunistic. Fortunately, Legrand and Scally know how to twist these new sounds to fit them rather than the other way around. It certainly helps that Legrand's lyricism remains as impressionistic and intimate as ever, never fully connecting the dots for the listener but conjuring just vivid enough imagery for any number of narratives to be spun.

    Those myriad narratives, much like the sounds around them, make the journey through 7 every bit as transportive and transcendent as any that Beach House have taken us on before. We never fully grasp where it is we are going with them, but as with their previous high watermarks, among which we can now count this album, it's definitely somewhere worth the trip.

    Beach House return to Philadelphia at the Tower Theater on July 26th.

    **Donate $20 or more to Y-Not Radio to receive a copy of 7 on CD. Click here for details.
    Review by Rob Huff

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