7 is the title of Beach House’s seventh album, which perhaps may seem a little unimaginative. And it’s true also that this album offers more of the foggy, noir-inspired, indie dream-pop that Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have been offering since their 2008 debut, Devotion. The Baltimore duo have indeed excelled in creating a sound that is immediately recognisable as them whilst also evoking artists such as Mazzy Star, Chromatics, Nico, Jesus and Mary Chain.
Six albums by the same band where sonically little has changed could reasonably be considered as enough, certainly, but Beach House have exceeded the expectations placed on them constantly and on 7 they positively, thrillingly, outstrip them completely.
Taking the faded and fucked-up glamour of old Hollywood and using it as a key influence in music, and of course film, is nothing new; indeed it’s as old as the hills themselves. Lana Del Rey has made an entire career from her portrayal of that specific kind of tortured psyche and Beach House seems to have also written 7 around a female muse (are there any other?) who is long past her call for a close-up Mr DeMille.
She could be the fragmented character portrayed on the album’s cover and on 7’s central track and highlight, ‘Drunk in LA’, Legrand’s most explicit and palpable connection is made with this character. Unlike Del Rey who uses the persona as an extension of herself, she inhabits this lost soul completely with a stately and respectful grace.
Shaking themselves out of their comfort zone by not using long-term producer Chris Coady and instead placing trust in Brit Peter Kemble aka Sonic Boom aka Brit Peter Kember, seems to have had a slyly transformational effect on Beach House and one that was clearly intentional.
The record’s most experimental and unexpected tracks, such as ‘Dive’s’ sudden and dramatic kraut-rock diversion, ‘Lemon Glow’ synths and trap stance and ‘L’Inconnue’ wall-of-sound choir, may still not be a radical departure for the duo but these decisions introduce a clarity and boldness that’s not immediately associated with the band.
These are big, confident and superbly crafted songs that sharply penetrate through their own self-contained and ghostly world.
Decent headphones are not necessarily essential to hear lyrics which are clearer than usual with far less ear stain required to hear Legrand often fuzzy, multi-tracked vocals. This again contributes to the album making a bigger emotional connection than some of the duo’s earlier work. The actress’ movements can be easily tracked as she makes her way down Vine and Sunset on the sublime, dreamy synth-push of ‘Girl of the Year’, and if there’s even a fourth season of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks then expect this be high up on Road House’s playlist.
On the languorous, long and hazy ‘Last Ride’ we say goodbye to this enduring, burnt out muse with sun-dappled keyboards and searing guitars. 7 is a very special and lucky number for Beach House it seems as this immersive, intriguing and fantastically rewarding album is one of their absolute best.