BEACH HOUSE: DEVOTION (2008)
1) Wedding Bell; 2) You Came To Me; 3) Gila; 4) Turtle Island; 5) Holy Dances; 6) All The Years; 7) Heart Of Chambers; 8) Some Things Last A Long Time; 9) Astronaut; 10) D.A.R.L.I.N.G; 11) Home Again.
If Beach House want to become the AC/DC of dream pop, they are well on the way with their second album. Nothing has changed: each single part of the general description of their sound in 2006 is equally applicable here. This concludes the most significant part of my review, but perhaps a little postscriptum is in order.
First, they may be a little fuller and plumper here; after all, a debut is always a debut, and you always learn a little by the time you start producing your sophomore effort. So the keyboards are more dense, and the pssht-pssht percussion more muffled and thus less annoying. The singing is more trying, especially on songs like 'Gila' where Legrand experiments with pitch, and on 'Heart Of Chambers', where she shows her range (which actually exists). And they produced no less than three different musical videos, which is about two more than before. Progress!
Second, I really like the two songs mentioned above. They are melodic, evocative, and catchy, and just about the only two songs on the record whose magic actually works. Why, I have no idea. Certainly not because of the lyrics that typically look something like this: 'In your heart of chambers where you sit / With your picture books and ancient wit / In that nook I found you / So old and tired / Would you be the one to carry me?' If this verse looks okay to you, how about the next one: 'Made our iron bed side cold as graves / So we stoke the organs that may comfort grace / And they conjured spirits to make you smile / Would you be my long time baby?'
But it is true: my stoked organs do comfort grace and conjure spirits to make me smile whenever I hear that song. It is suitably stately, appropriately grand, and mixes traditional melody and innovative incomprehensibility with enough conviction to register itself in my mind. So does 'Gila', whose point, as I see it, is to create an old-time feeling of nostalgia constrained by a tragic — but not thoroughly tragic — understanding of being unable to satisfy that feeling. Actually, this is pretty much what Beach House are all about: recreate the future by exploring the past. Or was that vice versa?
Sadly, the two singles seem to be the pivotal elements around which I can only see a lot of endlessly revolving filler. This is inevitably what happens when you record a bunch of same-sounding tunes, two or three of which are notably stronger than the rest. By including 'Gila' and 'Heart Of Chambers', they made me think of individual songs rather than the overall picture, and where Beach House worked primarily as homebrewn enchanting ambience, Devotion attempts to put on slightly different faces as it goes along, and it does not work. Once 'Gila' is replaced by the far less interesting 'Turtle Island', you may feel a pang of disappointment, and since nothing kills magic more efficiently than a good pang of disappointment, Devotion may crumble right under your very eyes, as it very nearly crumbled before mine.
Then again, it may not. If you loved Beach House — and I never loved it — you will never be disappointed by the follow-up. Instead, you will feel that Legrand's nonsensical lyrics merely reflect the existence of a parallel world, difficult to understand on the part of a mere mortal, and that you are ready to accommodate yourself to its living conditions, even if, as a side effect, they involve listening to stupid electronic percussion. And I will try to understand your feelings, even if I will have a decidedly hard time learning to respect them. In the meantime, I will surreptitiously whisk 'Gila' and 'Heart Of Chambers' off this record and spoil your fun by giving the rest a mischievous thumbs down. This is just not my ideal of a good dream-pop album.