Review: “7”

Since rising to prominence in 2004, dream pop band Beach House has been, in a word, consistent. One of the most critically acclaimed bands of the last decade, Beach House’s only set back is that its sound doesn’t evolve from album to album. Largely sticking with its haunting, slow-burning ballads, Beach House occupies a very specific place in the indie scene, and it occupies it well. However, on “7,” Beach House’s next album which releases May 11, the band has built upon its traditional sound, taking the established Beach House palette of somber organs and glittery guitar and adding a lively, organic aspect to its music.

Much more sonically textured and tonal than Beach House’s other albums, “7” is a successful departure from their previous work. Although I’m a big fan of Beach House and its dreamy sound that puts its listeners in a trance, six albums of the same sound with little deviation is frankly tiresome. With its upcoming project, however, Beach House has managed to break out of its predictability.

From the opening moment of the first song “Dark Spring,” I understood that this was not a typical Beach House record. Live drumming from James Barone, Beach House’s tour drummer, and a fast-paced (at least for Beach House) rhythm, “Dark Spring” sets the tone for the rest of the album as Beach House’s liveliest and most tangible record yet. With previous records like “Teen Dream” and “Depression Cherry” having such an ethereal sound, Beach House’s more down-to-earth style on “7” is refreshing and highlights the band’s effervescent melodies and instrumentation, rather than drowning them in a haze of synths.

Other tracks like “Lemon Glow” perpetuate this style, with the song being instantly recognizable as one of Beach House’s only danceable tracks, maintaining a pulsating beat that pushes the song relentlessly forward. “Dive” is a track that retains the classic slow-burning Beach House style in the first half of the song, while transitioning smoothly into the sound it has adopted on “7,” having livelier percussion and a more progressive sound. In essence, “Dive” is well put-together representative of Beach House’s musical evolution.

All of this progression culminates into one relatively small, but significant change Beach House has adopted on this record. Having been a dream pop band for almost a decade and a half, Beach House has finally begun to experiment with new genres and new sounds. On “7,” the band has shifted to making music sounding closest to shoegaze, a genre originating in the U.K. during the 1980s that is similar to dream pop, but has a more progressive and experimental background. While before, Beach House was more concerned with stylistic consistency and making traditional pop songs with a dreamlike twist, “7” has shown its shift to breaking out of its dream pop shell and pushing its sound forward.

With clear inspiration from psychedelic rock, “Woo” sounds most similar to a song Tame Impala may have made in 2015 and “Last Ride” has one of Beach House’s most sonically braggadocios records in the band’s entire discography, with an in-your-face guitar solo closing out its album instead of the typical soft fade-out it has stuck to over the last six albums.

One of the most rewarding albums of 2018 so far, “7” pushes the boundaries of what Beach House has been capable of, while still maintaining the band’s typical trappings that made so many people fall in love with its music in the first place.