The eighth album from legendary Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House is their lengthiest and densest project to date, clocking in at an 84-minute runtime, made up of 18 songs. But have the band matched quantity to quality on their first project in 4 years? The Mic's Gemma Cockrell gives her verdict.
For fans of the outfit, the sprawling and extensive nature of Once Twice Melody may be a blessing rather than a curse, having waited four long years for new music since their last offering 7 in 2018. For the more casual fan, the amount of songs Beach House are presenting here may prove overwhelming, and to make the album more digestible, Once Twice Melody is divided into four chapters: Pink Funeral, New Romance, Masquerade and Modern Love Stories.
"the soundscapes capture an aura of light and airy freedom, without sacrificing any of their lush beauty."
As a frontrunner of the dream-pop genre, Once Twice Melody proves that Beach House are anything but complacent. Some of the most lush and complex soundscapes they have crafted throughout their entire career dominate the record, demonstrating that the duo is still evolving and developing their sound, even though it has been 16 years since they entered the scene with their debut self-titled album.
The first chapter, Pink Funeral, is composed of the four opening tracks of the album. Superstar is armed with a melody reminiscent of a track such as On Melancholy Hill by Gorillaz, and despite it's six-minute runtime never feels as if it is becoming monotonous or dull. The title track of this chapter Pink Funeral opens dramatically, with sinister pulsating instrumentation, transforming into an ode to the tale of Swan Lake and giving the first chapter an almost cinematic quality.
Whilst the first chapter can be seen as the ending of an era, Chapter 2, New Romance, tells the tale of the new beginnings that often rear their heads following loss. Here, the soundscapes capture an aura of light and airy freedom, without sacrificing any of their lush beauty. The introduction of ESP is sparse, with soft guitar lines and breathy vocals. The space that this opens within the track only adds to its effect, Beach House are masters of the ‘less is more’ approach.
"the album’s overarching message [is] that hope can materialise from desolation"
Entirely contrasting this, the following song New Romance, the title track to this chapter, is perhaps the most layered and complex track on the album, with a euphoric and elating instrumental backing the soaring chorus. The chapter closes on Over and Over, which perfectly captures the essence of this sector of the album: “When the lights go down / And divide the day / Out of nothing comes / The moonglow” – the never-ending cycle of endings and beginnings that keep life moving forward.
This is a theme that continues to run through Chapter 3, beginning on an ending with the track Sunset, driven by the pure, clean strums of acoustic guitar. The bridge of the following track, Only You Know, is one of the most mesmerising moments here: “In the summer blaze / Under melting days” provoking imagery of long, languorous summer months. The title track of this chapter, Masquerade, opens with slightly sinister, echoing synths reminiscent of something from Yung Lean’s 2016 album Warlord, the track expands into an exploration of goth-rock.
The final chapter, Modern Love Story, opens oxymoronically with a track called Finale, once again beginning on an ending, cementing the album’s overarching message that hope can materialise from desolation. The following track The Bells is tinged with a nostalgic American feel, comparable to a track like Chinatown by Bleachers and Bruce Springsteen, romanticising days of the past but emphasising that “The bells still ring the same” – nothing has changed since then; things just always look brighter in retrospect.
You can feel the album begin to draw to a close with penultimate track Many Nights. With its quiet, almost whispered vocals, the track definitely isn’t the most impressive or fleshed-out on the record, but for an 18-song album to have such few tracks that perhaps didn’t need to make the cut is an impressive feat. Beach House manage to achieve what many musicians are unable to, crafting an album with such density which doesn’t sacrifice its cohesivity or purpose.
Edited by: Elliot Fox
In article images courtesy of Beach House via Facebook. Video Courtesy of Beach House via YouTube.