There comes a point in every band’s career when the law of diminishing returns begins to set in. Depression Cherry is Baltimore dream pop outfit Beach House’s fifth album and they have yet to really alter their tried and tested formula of reverbed guitars, ethereal synths and programmed drums that we first encountered on their self-titled debut almost a decade ago. With 2010’s Teen Dream, the band upped the stakes in the songwriting department and utilised some extra instrumentation, but 2012’s Bloom saw the duo shrink back to the style that they had built their name with – and it appears that its follow-up has continued in mostly that same vein.
It might not have been this way though. The album’s first single ‘Sparks’ hinted that maybe the duo were ready to mix things up a little with Alex Scally’s noisy guitar and distorted synth lines suggesting a My Bloody Valentine influence on proceedings as Victoria Legrand’s lush vocals simmered just below the surface. This early offering, however, proves to be somewhat of a red herring as the rest of the album reverts back to the hazy, floaty aesthetic that Beach House professed from the beginning.
Not that there still isn’t a lot to enjoy on this record. Despite the moments of overfamiliarity, there is plenty of beauty to be found within these spare, stark songs – particularly on the record’s first half – and the album is rarely less than pleasant. The opener ‘Levitation’ lives up to its title, easing the listener into the album with uplifting synths and Legrand’s delicate vocals earnestly telling us “there’s a place I want to take you”. ‘Space Song’, meanwhile, has a gentle riff that can’t help but lodge itself in your head and the song contains some of Legrand’s most honest and direct lyrics on the LP.
The second half of the album is unable to keep up the momentum however. ‘PPP’ feels overlong and its circling, arpeggiated guitar never builds to the emotional climax that it aims for while ‘Bluebird’ is nothing that the band have done better elsewhere. The instrumentation on the album seem to be noticeably cleaner and less reliant on reverb compared to previous Beach House releases, stripping away some of the grandiose feeling that was present on the group’s previous efforts.
Overall, the record makes for an enjoyable listen, and is a solid addition to Beach House’s oeuvre, even if it doesn’t quite reach the heady heights of the band’s best work. Beach House’s music will always sound gorgeous, but here’s hoping that the duo look to challenge themselves a little more on their next effort.