Over the course of the site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Baltimore-based JOVM mainstays Beach House, and as you may recall, the dream pop act comprised of core duo 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 continued a run of critically applauded and commercially successful albums with its release earlier this year through Sub Pop Records in North America, Bella Union Records in Europe and Mistletone Records in Australia and New Zealand.
The recording sessions for 7 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. “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.”
I’ve written about a handful of singles off 7 — “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,” which continued in a similar vein as its predecessor, as it was a shoegazer-like single featuring woozy power chords, twinkling keys and a soaring hook; “Black Car,” a synth-based track that found the duo pushing their sound away from their known and wining formula; and “Drunk in LA,” a slow-burning and meditative track centered around arpeggiated synths and Legrand’s ethereal crooning. Interestingly enough, the band’s latest single the Sonic Boom, Jason Quever and Beach House-produced “Alien,” is an outtake from the 7 recording sessions and was originally released a B-side for a limited-edition tour-only 7 inch — and the track manages to bear a semblance to the previously released “Dive,” as it’s an anthemic bit of shoegaze centered around buzzing power chords, twinkling and arpeggiated synths and a rousing hook. While arguably being one of their most arena rock friendly tracks, it manages to possess a subtly mesmerizing quality.