Beach House – ‘Once Twice Melody’ review: surrealist dream-poppers turn the page

The Baltimore duo's eighth record pairs trippy imagery with playful, cinematic sounds that herald the start of a bold, unpredictable new chapter  

“For whatever reason, we seem to keep that little playful thing intact,” Beach House told NME earlier last month, pondering the consistency of the immersive sound they’ve cultivated throughout 18 years as a band. First emerging into the early-’00s indie scene with their self-titled debut back in 2006, the Baltimore dream-poppers have embraced a gentler kind of growth compared with the rest of their original peers – instead of drastically changing things up (or imploding altogether), they’ve undergone a gradual evolution.

Remarkably, the duo have carved out their own distinctive style without losing their spark or retreating into tired territory. Just when you think they might struggle to top their best work yet, they have form in pulling it off anyway: be it through following the spare, candle-lit echo of ‘Teen Dream’ (2010) with the expansion of ‘Bloom’ (2012), or answering ‘Depression Cherry’s hum of synthesised strings with their heaviest work yet on 2018’s ‘7’.

‘Once Twice Melody’, the band’s first self-produced album, is broken down into four separate chapters; three have been released already. Only the five closing songs are ‘new’, and from the aptly-named ‘Finale’ onwards, they rise to the task of drawing things to a wide-screen close. Grandest of all is the cinematic final track ‘Modern Love Stories’, where epic live strings give way to strummed guitars on the brink of floating off into the atmosphere.

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Along the way, the duo draw on swooning, spacey shoegaze and vaguer hints of loose psychedelia as Victoria Legrand’s lyrics often pin down memory as she attempts to make sense of its hazy outline. “Everyone says it was fun while it lasted,” she sings, her voice colliding with a My Bloody Valentine-sized wall of sound, “it went right past us.” The band’s own daydreaming spin on gaudy, drama-steeped ‘80s synth-pop seeps into the cavernous, drum-machine laden ‘Masquerade’ and ‘Hurts To Love’s punchy robot-organs. If it hurts to love,” Legrand sings on the latter, “you better do it anyway”. 

Even in its more intimate moments, there’s a certain theatricality to ‘Once Twice Melody’, which is home to some of Beach House’s most surreal lyrics. How sweet the sound, the swell of strings begins to rise,” Legrand lays out on ‘Pink Funeral’, carefully setting the scene like a script note in a ballet. “The stage is set, the painted stars, they fill our eyes.” It’s a neat description of Beach House: even when they’re building vast unfurling worlds, their music has a kind of closeness, as if it’s unfolding right in front of you.

DETAILS:

Release date: February 18

Release label: Bella Union

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