Beach House’s Salty Sonic Thank Your Lucky Stars

Beach House. Photo Shawn Brackbill. Beach House. Photo Shawn Brackbill.

Written by Henry Kronk

Five seconds into Beach House’s new album, Thank Your Lucky Stars, one might convince oneself that somewhere—perhaps through a single, crackly radio sitting on a table in an otherwise unfurnished room—the album has always been playing. With the echo turned way up, a nearly identical musical arrangement wafts each song from beginning to end. The lack of melodic distinction, not only from song to song but within each song itself, slows time to a honey-dripping halt.

Like their previous album Depression Cherry, Lucky Stars compiles an impressive ensemble of tones. Hazy vocals, multiple organs/keyboards, and drums, bass, and guitar of the simplest variety, create an easygoing sonic world that boasts a sizeable gravitational pull. It’s blurred sonic lines manage to convince the listener that she is simultaneously slow-dancing in an empty auditorium at 3 a.m. and watching the sun rise over the ocean. Nothing is crisp. Their sound appears to have travelled through five meters of salty water before reaching the listener’s ears.
But that is all the new album does. The Baltimore band knows what works, and they do it to death. The album takes no risks. Each song, with the exception of Rough Song simply repeats a melody; there is no structure and little to view beneath the surface.

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“There is nothing here,” the opening track, Marjorette, affirms, “And neither are you.” The song acts as a statement of intent: “If there were nothing left to lose / we’d have something to prove.” Beach House gets away with endless lyrical platitudes only because the vocals have been so obscured by multiple-tracking and soundboard wizardry that, more often than not, one cannot understand the words being sung.

“And when they ask us / if we’re happy inside,” states All Your Yeahs, “we’re a rollercoaster. / Yeah, we’re a fire in the night.” Beach House metaphors good; any poetically-minded listeners will be disappointed.

Elegy to the Void attempts the most emotional depth as the album’s memento mori:

To your sons and daughters
Bending at the altar
In the mirror
Watching as it burns up (it is just a phase)
Freckle face young virgins (it is just a game)

No, that is not a complete sentence. The attempted depth is undercut by the oxymoronic nature of the title. One sings an elegy to a person who is dead and gone. Were the void gone, then it might be presumed that something exists. If the rest of the album serves as a limp affirmation of life, “Elegy” laments its passing in an equally uninvolved, nonsensical fashion.

While Lucky Stars fails to hold one’s attention for the duration of its nine tracks, it should be praised for the sonic environment it evokes. The album captures a single moment, puts it in a bottle, and contents itself to do nothing else. Listeners need only to press play, relax, and allow themselves to be carried off to Beach House’s vanilla-flavored dreamworld.

Beach House’s new album Thank Your Lucky Stars is out now. The band performs in Montreal on March 9 at the Rialto.