Throughout a significant portion of this site’s history, I’ve written quite a bit about Baltimore-based JOVM mainstays Beach House, and as you may recall, the duo which is comprised of founding and primary members Victoria Legrand (organ, vocals) and Alex Scally (guitar, vocals) have released 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.
7, the Baltimore-based indie rock’s seventh full-length album was released earlier this year through Sub Pop Records in North America, Bella Union Records in Europe and Mistletone Records in Australia and New Zealand, and the recording sessions found the band 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. The album also features the band’s most recent live drummer James Barone, who as the duo say in press notes, helped “keep rhythm at the center of a lot of these songs.”
“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,” Legrand and Scally explain. “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 on the album’s material. “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.”
So far, Beach House has released a handful of singles off the album — “Lemon Glow,” a jangling and atmospheric track centered around Legrand’s ethereal vocals; the shoegazer-like “Dive,” one of the most expansive and ambitious tracks they’ve released; “Dark Spring,” a shoegazer-like single featuring woozy power chords, twinkling keys and a soaring hook; and “Black Car,” which found the duo gently pushing their sound away from their known formula as it was centered around arpeggiated and atmospheric synths. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Drunk in LA” differs from the video version, as Kember remixed the song for the video, making the focus of the slow-burning and meditative poem-like song Legrand’s ethereal vocals and the arpeggiated synths, which as the duo says highlights the lonesome quality of the song — but it also evokes the sort of lonely regret that comes about late at night, when you’re left to contemplate the events of your life.
As the duo say of the video treatment, “While mixing the record with Alan Moulder in London, we were out having dinner and Pete mentioned an idea for a video where the viewer is always looking up from the ground. This became the ‘Drunk in LA’ video. When he sent it to us, we complimented and commented on the trippy, dreamlike nature of the video and he wrote that it was essentially just a day in his life.”