Thursday, February 7, 2008

New Music: Devotion

It seems funny that a band called Beach House would release an album in the winter. That is, until you hear their music. Much like its February release date, Devotion is bleak, cold, and beautiful. Like the coldest of seasons, it’s Beach House’s desolation that makes it so pretty.

Similar to the band’s self-titled debut, Devotion consists of simple songs and instrumentation. The sounds here don’t vary from their established keyboard/organ/guitar/drum machine template. Victoria Legrand’s voice, compared to Nico by All Music Guide, shines through the barren echoes of the accompanying music, telling stories of despair. Beach House is certainly not summer music.

It’s not bad, either. “You Came to Me” builds up to a mysterious climax as Legrand sings “You came to my in my dreams.” The music suggests those weren’t daydreams. “Gila” and “Turtle Island,” like most of the other songs on Devotion, are beautifully sad. The album truly reaches its peak with the “Holy Dances,” “All The Years,” “Heart Of Chambers” trio. The three songs conjoin with each other and share the same nearly sing-song sensibility – one not found on their debut.

The main weakness of this album is that it’s strongest in the middle. It doesn’t start flat or fizzle out, but its moments of brilliance and beauty are found mostly mid-way through. That’s not to say the end is entirely devoid of “moments,” though. “Astronaut” ends with a catchy background vocal riff that appears at just the right time in the tune. “D.A.R.L.I.N.G.” takes elements of surf music and seems to, well, sedate them – staccato organ riffs, buzzing guitars, and surf beats are all devoid of all but despair here. In fact this song, like most of the album, sounds like it came from a haunted house – in a good way, of course.

With Devotion, Beach House has created one of the better albums of 2008 so far. It’s impossibly pretty, yet bleak, mood calls to mind other beautifully sad releases…

Calla – Scavengers
Beck – Sea Change
The Durutti Coumn – Someone Else’s Party
The Clientele – Strange Geometry

Devotion and these other releases are worth checking out on a rainy, or snowy, day.

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