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In 2003 The Manic Street Preachers released a compilation album subtitled 'A Secret History'. It's a title that Baltimore Dream Pop duo Beach House should have considered for their first compilation album, which encompasses additional material that hasn't appeared on their six studio albums released since 2006. B-Sides And Rarities seems an odd album title for a band that's not predominantly known for singles, it's a joke that Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally seem to have acknowledged while doing the rounds promoting their latest offering. While you do have flipside songs and hard to find gems here, the real selling point is that this is a comprehensive package of every studio recording the band has made that hasn't fitted naturally onto a record. It's the first time we've been given an overview of Beach House's output over the last eleven years, and that's what makes this record a real success.
Unlike other compilations B-Sides and Rarities feels decidedly cohesive, even though these are orphaned songs from a multitude of projects. The most important thing it tells us about the band is that although their commercial appeal has grown over time, their sound hasn't dramatically changed or been compromised to achieve those sales figures. There's a certain artistic integrity to the contents of this album that the duo should be proud of and it gives them the freedom to stray from a formulaic chronological running order, choosing instead to let seemingly unconnected compositions compliment each other.
The album opens with the first of two previously unreleased tracks, 'Chariot'. Recorded during sessions for the band's last two albums in 2015, you can hear the confidence that the duo has developed in recent years with a slow burning and hypnotic organ melody punctuating Legrand's warm cooing vocals and Scally's languid guitars. The second of these songs 'Baseball Diamond' is more delicate and intricate with it's organ bringing to mind a ball game in slow motion. While it's understandable that these songs may not have fitted on other studio projects, they certainly feel at home here.
Continue reading: Beach House - B-Sides And Rarities Album Review
I doubt that 2015 will be remembered for being dominated by one particular musical genre. It seems the culture of digital downloads has made it more difficult for a movement to coalesce in a marketplace brimming with choice.
I'd argue though that the last twelve months has seen the strongest showing from female artists across the board for many years. Many acts would easily have made my year-end list on a different day, and many of them cantered on a strong female voice. Solo artists like Joanna Newsom, Laura Marling, and Lana Del Rey all presented strong albums. Even Florence Welch's third album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which didn't quite live up to her previous efforts in my opinion, featured some glorious moments. I debated for a long time whether to include Courtney Barnett's Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit in my ten best records list. Ultimately it sits just outside for me, although her unique delivery and kitchen sink drama approach is wonderfully endearing. That Adele's 25 closed the year on a strong note, just underlined the trend that had been building all year. It's not just solo artists though; the likes of: Best Coast, Girlpool, Bully, and Wolf Alice, all demonstrated that women were back in the spotlight.
Other bands made welcome returns, Blur in particular were my live highlight of the year, thanks to Graham Coxon's master class on stage. Their album The Magic Whip didn't quite make the cut for my list in the end, compared to most other years it would have. Interestingly it was also a year where side projects came to fruition for well-known artists. Dan Auerbach's The Arcs produced their first studio material, as did Matt Berninger's El Vy. Both albums had their moments, but didn't quite feel fully realised in their own right. Elsewhere the likes of Lucero, Jason Isbell, and Ben Folds produced albums that matched their finest work. My love of bands from Philadelphia also continued thanks to Beach Slang's debut The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us and Hop Along's third album Painted Shut. If there were disappointment's I had, it was those records that were simply good and not as great as you'd hoped. The Decemberists, Frank Turner, Wilco, and Death Cab For Cutie's albums all fell into that category for me. By no means bad, the material on those albums struggled to compete with their high watermarks of previous years. I was especially curious about Ryan Adams' ambitious reinterpretation of the entirety of Taylor Swift's 1989, the result didn't quite live up to the promise it had on the drawing board though. It may have introduced a different audience to some excellent songs, but Adams managed to strip some of the fun out of the arrangements in the process. By the time there were Father John Misty covers of Adams' recordings on the Internet, it felt like the Swift fan club didn't need any more famous members.
Then there were the records you felt you should love, but for whatever reason they just didn't connect on a personal level. Drake and Father John Misty aka Josh Tillman produced records that despite the hype I just didn't manage to fall in love with. Tilman's 'Bored In The USA' was astute social commentary with it's tongue firmly in its cheek, but it didn't hook me into the album as a whole. Perhaps the biggest record in this category for me is Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly. It's technically brilliant, ambitious, has great rhymes, and straddles so many genres that it shouldn't be as cohesive as it is. The problem was, it left me cold. It almost felt as if Lamar wanted to prove he could produce something that ticked all the boxes he thought he should, rather than writing the record he wanted to. Perhaps with time I'll grow to love these albums, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Continue reading: Jim Pusey's Top 10 Albums Of 2015
Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand have returned much faster than anticipated with their sixth album 'Thank Your Lucky Stars'; an album no one expected considering the steady output Beach House have had over their career. 'Depression Cherry', their fifth album, arrived at the end of August 2015, and now another has already appeared out from the woodwork to everyone's surprise and excitement. 'Depression Cherry' remains the best Beach House album to date; it follows the gradual progression Beach House have managed to achieve in the refinement of their sound, reaching grand theatrical heights through their typically melancholic sentiments concerning the sadness of pleasure and the pleasure of sadness. In bold contrast, 'Thank Your Lucky Stars', recorded around the same time, is a slightly more stripped back and dare one say more sombre album. It's also absolutely fantastic, but as much as it hurts to say it, sometimes too much of a good thing can be its own undoing.
Although the band have asserted their view that these albums are their own entities entirely, it is near impossible not to make comparisons. So here goes. 'Depression Cherry' is a demonstration of their technical prowess. With it's emotional, moody atmosphere it almost ingratiates itself as a landmark in your life, wielding fleeting intangibility through its shoegaze walls of bliss drenched noise.
'Thank Your Lucky Stars', on the other hand, is their most personal album to date. The most notable difference with it is the lack of cathedral-like reverb swallowing the record like many of their prior releases. The lyrics are more direct than they've ever been, playing as a focal point throughout the album instead of being a complementary asset to their swirling sounds. It also harbours their most conventionally structured songs since their debut album. 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' finds Beach House in slightly darker territory, it is an intimate listen, and totally stripped back. 'One Thing' finds them experimenting with an almost Velvet Underground influence, and 'Common Girl' could easily be placed as one of the highlights on their self-titled debut. However, the album's stand-out track is 'Elegy to the Void', which is possibly one of the best songs the band has ever released. We find Beach House at their most death-obsessed with beautiful imagery wrapped within a beautifully building sonic journey while Legrand coos, "To your sons and daughters/ Bending at the altar/ Disappearing in the mirror" within its chorus.
Continue reading: Beach House - Thank Your Lucky Stars Album Review
Album number five from Baltimore Dream Pop duo Beach House is another impressive achievement. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have been keen to point out that Depression Cherry is an evolution out of step with the commercial success and larger stages they have been lavished with following previous releases. While these newest songs sound more insular and less triumphant than the astonishing material found on Bloom in 2012, I'd argue that this darker iteration of Beach House is just as compelling.
If there's a comparison to be made it's most obviously with My Bloody Valentine. It's not just that Depression Cherry's stark maroon cover brings to mind a soured version of the red rose coloured artwork from Loveless. Rather the vocal loops and programmed occasionally industrial sounding drums bring to mind Kevin Shields unique brand of Noise Pop. Yes, Beach House present a more sedate version of MBV's visceral legacy, but they're certainly distant cousins.
The moment that brought the comparison to mind was the opening bars of the deceptively complicated and arrestingly noisy 'Sparks'. A distorted echoing vocal sample of Legrand singing the repeated refrain "slow and patient life" (recorded on an iphone during a sound check in Bristol) forms the backbone of the track. The sample is ever present, phasing in and out behind melodies that wash over it. The real attention grabbing moment comes seconds later though when Scally's jarring guitar breaks the mantra as the track explodes into life with keyboards and drums weaving a tapestry of noise under an ethereal lead vocal that references a teenage awakening of sorts. The swirling noise builds to a joyous conclusion as Legrand declares "make it, wave it, alive". With something that sounds this compelling its no surprise it was chosen as the album's lead single.
Continue reading: Beach House - Depression Cherry Album Review
Expectations were high well before 2012 had even kicked off for the mass of upcoming ventures from across the board. We had (and still have) high anticipation for superhero ventures with The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers, the exciting (we had no idea just how exhilarating) end to the English Premier League and the Euros and London Olympics to look forward to too. All this and the world is supposed to end at some point as well!
Continue reading: Beach House, Bloom Album Review
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