Over the past handful of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the the Baltimore-based indie rock act Beach House, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of primary members and songwriters Victoria Legrand (organ, vocals) and Alex Scally (guitar, vocals) have released a a number of critically and commercially successful albums, including 2015’s Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, which were written and recorded within a two-and-a-half year period between 2012-2014 — and while being individual efforts, they’re meant to be viewed as closely related companion pieces, as metaphorically being two sides of the same coin, as they built upon similar themes and a related, overall sound centered around sparse and atmospheric arrangements of organ, guitar and Legrand’s ethereal vocals.
Much like countless bands before them, Legrand and Scally have written and recorded a large number of songs throughout their career, some of which have been played live or released that for whatever reason just didn’t quite fit their album-based material. Over the years, some of those songs have proven to be increasingly difficult to find and listen to, and to accommodate their fans, they released B-Sides and Rarities, a 14 track compilation of songs that they’ve recorded and released that just didn’t make their albums, and two previously unreleased singles “Chariot” and “Baseball Diamond,” recorded during the Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars sessions. As a music journalist and fan, B-side compilations can offer a revealing look into a band’s creative and editorial processes as they write and record an album. Interestingly, according to a lengthy statement written by the band that appears on Sub Pop’s website, the B-sides album “felt like a good step for us. It helped us clean the creative closet, put the past the bed and start anew.”
The Baltimore-based act’s seventh full-length album, the symbolically apt titled 7 is slated for a May 11, 2018 release through Sub Pop Records in North America, Bella Union Records in Europe and Mistletone Records in Australia and New Zealand, and as the album found the act working with Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom (a.k.a. Peter Kember) as a producer — but not in the traditional sense, as he helped the band in their attempts to start anew by shedding conventions and ensuring that the album’s material would be fresh, alive and protected from the tendency of overproduction and perfectionism. Additionally, the album finds Legrand and Scally working with their most recent live drummer James Barone, who as the band says helped “keep rhythm at the center of a lot of these songs.”
As Legrand and Scally explain “Throughout the process of recording 7, our goal was rebirth and rejuvenation. We wanted to rethink old methods and shed some self-imposed limitations. In the past, we often limited our writing to parts that we could perform live. On 7, we decided to follow whatever came naturally. As a result, there are some songs with no guitar, and some without keyboard. There are songs with layers and production that we could never recreate live, and that is exciting to us. Basically, we let our creative moods, instead of instrumentation, dictate the album’s feel.
“In the past, the economics of recording have dictated that we write for a year, go to the studio, and record the entire record as quickly as possible. We have always hated this because by the time the recording happens, a certain excitement about older songs has often been lost. This time, we built a ‘home’ studio, and began all of the songs there. Whenever we had a group of 3-4 songs that we were excited about, we would go to a ‘proper’ recording studio and finish recording them there. This way, the amount of time between the original idea and the finished song was pretty short.”
As the act admits, the societal sense of instability, uncertainty and chaos was deeply influential. “Looking back, there is quite a bit of chaos happening in these songs, and a pervasive dark field that we had little control over. The discussions surrounding women’s issues were a constant source of inspiration and questioning. The energy, lyrics and moods of much of this record grew from ruminations on the roles, pressures and conditions that our society places on women, past and present.” They go on to say that in a general sense, “we are interested by the human mind’s (and nature’s) tendency to create forces equal and opposite to those present. Thematically, this record often deals with the beauty that arises in dealing with darkness; the empathy and love that grows from collective trauma; the place one reaches when they accept rather than deny.
Now, as you may recall, last month Beach House released “Lemon Glow,” 7’s first single, a jangling and atmospheric track centered around Legrand’s etheral vocals that possessed a subtle, cosmic glow. Interestingly, the album’s second and latest single “Dive” is arguably one of the more expansive tracks they’ve released in recent memory as it features a lengthy, atmospheric section centered around Legrand’s vocals, organ and gently padded drumming before quickly shifting into a buzzing power chord-based coda that has the band leaning towards a much more ambitious approach — while focused on deeply introspective lyrics.