Sunday, November 1, 2015

Thank Your Lucky Stars: Beach House's 2nd album in 2 months

Beach House seem like a slow and methodical band.  Each of their first four albums came out two years between one another, and it's easy to imagine them using that entire timespan to carefully craft their precise, insular tunes.  That's why it was so shocking a month ago when the band announced via Twitter that they were going to be releasing a new album only two months after the release of their excellent Depression Cherry.  Even as the release date inched closer on the calendar, Thank Your Lucky Stars still felt unreal.  Could it be?  Did they really have another set of new songs that they were ready to unleash on the world?

Well, Thank Your Lucky Stars is here and feels nothing like a toss-off either.  These tracks are just as tight and meticulously constructed as the ones on Depression Cherry, unlocking themselves slowly over the course of many exploratory listens.  In a way, the record feels like vintage Beach House, if such a thing exists.  When discussing the duo back in their early days, I often described their music as "Halloween meets Valentine's Day."  Over the years, they slowly scraped off the Halloween half until all that remained was huge, gauzy dream pop.  Thank Your Lucky Stars makes an effort to bring the balance back, and it's a refreshing return.  When's the last time we heard something like the spooky, vaguely sinister "She's So Lovely," or the croaking synth lead of "Common Girl"?  In recalling those older sounds, the band really emphasizes just how far they had progressed away from it, putting to bed those notions that they've been making the same album over and over.  Beach House finds a way to carve out distinct plots in a single sonic space, and this album is no different.

In the tweets that announced Thank Your Lucky Stars, the band wrote, "We are very excited, it's an album being released the way we want.  It's not a companion to Depression Cherry or a surprise or b-sides."  It's true too, this album is not an afterthought or a series of songs that weren't good enough to make it on an album with the typical promotional cycle.  In fact, the songs on Thank Your Lucky Stars don't sound like they were made in the same sessions, or even the same head space, as Depression Cherry.  Still, it's hard not to think of the ways these two records contrast and complement each other.  The songs on Depression Cherry feel more glossy and blown-out, they're constructed to be so large you can't wrap your arms around them to hold them down.  This album is made up of tracks that feel more tangible -- it's the darker, dustier cousin of what we heard a few months ago.  Songs like "One Thing" or "Elegy to the Void" may crack open in their second halves, but it's nothing like the swirl of a "PPP."  That doesn't mean this record is less enjoyable, it just holds its pleasures closer to its chest.

Some critics have been acting like this album is ruining the band's mystique, that coming so shortly after Depression Cherry diminishes it in some way.  But honestly, it makes this album even more of an achievement, in that it shows off Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally's ability to create two distinct, but equally compelling records without needing to come up for air or reset themselves.  I've heard people referring to this as "minor Beach House."  But I've also heard Thank Your Lucky Stars itself, and it's another set of beautiful, emotionally overwhelming songs.  There's nothing minor about it.

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