Beach House – 7 (Album Review)

Patterns are integral to Beach House’s sound and process. Patterns about human nature, connection, emotion, and how we drift through this life. Patterns within our smaller, intimate moments. Those rhythm patterns that keep us coming back to their sound. It’s come to define the essence of Beach House’s well crafted dream-pop sensibilities.

The duo have dominated the dream-pop genre for just over a decade now. Their minimalist beginnings have evolved into layered textures of hazy, velvety dreamscapes. The evolution continues with 7, as Beach House readjusts their sound; only to retain their strongest trademarks.

There are two distinct qualities to 7 that are almost immediate. Production-wise, this is the slickest that Beach House has ever sounded. In addition, there’s a more “hands-on” approach when it comes to the assembly of the tracks – with production, arrangements and engineering being handled by Beach House themselves. Chris Coady, who produced the duo’s more expansive records (Teen Dream, Bloom, Depression Cherry, Thank Your Lucky Stars) is replaced by Sonic Boom, who likely lended 7’s notable sheen on top of Beach House’s psychedelic montage here.

But if a change in sound worries long-time Beach House fans: fret not! That recongnisable sound is still present in abundance.

7 boasts a hefty amount of standout tracks, with many deep cuts that are likely to become fan favorites. The album opens with the single “Dark Spring,” launching us into an ominous-but-inviting journey into 7’s foggy and mysterious underpinnings. The track hurls us into the more languid, but fuzzy “Pay No Mind,” which would have fit right at home on their 2012 Bloom album. “Lemon Glow” is a significant marker for the duo; it feels like a culmination of everything they’ve offered listeners before, but with a fresh twist on each element. Hypnotic synth-lines, fuzzed-out guitar stings, oscillated reverb, and an inspired hip-hop, trap drumbeat.

“Drunk in LA,” which I regard as 7’s strongest track, finds Victoria Legrand earnestly finding comfort and regret in hidden memories: “I had a good run playing horses in my mind / On a hillside I remember / I am loving losing life.” Urgent drums, floating synth-lines, and anxious vocals lend this track an emotional resonance that fans will keep coming back to years from now. Probably a career benchmark for the long-time dream-weavers.

Dive” and “Black Car” keep the momentum going, with the former progressing as a grand, organ-tinged number that ramps up in speed towards its finale – accelerating more and more. “Black Car” deviates from the usual Beach House formula with a slow, mesmerizing synthline that builds into a sleek track that could, almost, fit in on a late night hip-hop and R&B radio station. A limousine ride through somebody’s dreams and desires, indeed.

Lose Your Smile” is almost a callback to the classic Beach House days, somewhere around the Devotion and Teen Dream years. Acoustic guitars, airy vocals, encompassing synths, and simple drums. “Woo” somehow manages to be more stripped-down, with it’s programmed drumbeat and Legrand’s simple longing: “I want it all, but I can’t have it”.

“Girl of the Year” acts as a lush, penultimate track – almost summing up 7’s themes full-stop, complete with soaring, dazzling synths. Not to be outdone, “Last Ride” closes 7 with an almost heavenly soundscape on its own. A haunting solo piano opening with an echoey Legrand; a gradual crescendo in to dissonant organs and feedback, before drifting away.

Few acts have found the amount of consistency that’s seen in Beach House’s catalogue – a pattern the group maintains here. 7 ranks among Beach House’s finest works, packing an impressive collection of tracks that could become high-water marks with time. If Teen Dream, Devotion, and Bloom are described as being Beach House’s best albums, then 7 has certainly earned a spot at the table in that discussion. The duo have managed to shake-off their limitations and embrace the elements that’s kept them consistent for so long – all with the desired effect of having you drift away into your dreams over and over again.

RATING: ****

7 is available on Sub Pop Records, Bella Union (Europe), and Mistletone (Australia/New Zealand).