When there’s a shift in Beach House’s sound, it’s rarely seismic or dramatic. They make careful, gradual moves, perfecting the sound they’ve crafted before changing its shape or expanding it. It worked with Devotion. It worked with Teen Dream. And it certainly worked with 2012’s Bloom. Yet the notable side effect of having a signature sound is that when something does change, it’s a lot more noticeable. On the surface, “Sparks,” the first single to be released from the band’s upcoming fifth album Depression Cherry, is exactly what a Beach House song should be, and is generally expected to be: A beautifully stark dream-pop song built on the simple and solid foundation that Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally laid down nearly a decade ago. But something’s different this time.
In truth, something is always different, however slight it might seem, but with “Sparks,” there’s a dramatic head of distortion, reverb and feedback in its opening notes. It wheezes and flutters like classic shoegaze, without ever being quite so loud. Legrand’s double-tracked vocal harmonies even sound, oddly, like those of Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine. Scally, for his part, crafts a brilliant dream-pop backing that’s more akin to the Cocteau Twins circa Heaven or Las Vegas. But some subtle comparisons aside, what you get with “Sparks” is ultimately Beach House at their purest. The formula hasn’t changed all that much—a vintage organ and some dreamy guitar licks still stand at the heart of the song. And yet, this is a band with much bigger dreams and greater ambitions than the one that first glided out of Baltimore on a series of lo-fi, barely there lullabies. “Sparks” is a much grander version of those lullabies, fuller in sound and richer in execution. It moves at a measured pace, but it doesn’t take long before it catches fire, brilliant in its slow burn.[from Depression Cherry, out Aug. 28; Sub Pop]
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.