Way back in the late spring of 2007, I saw Beach House open for The Clientele at a tiny club called Babylon (which sadly closed during the pandemic). I had thought their self-titled debut, released the year prior a pleasant enough listen, so I was more than happy to go early to catch their set. Unfortunately, though, the duo didn’t make as huge an impression on me as a live band as The Clientele at the time. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally seemed talented enough but it was hard to see longevity in their effortless, languid, and hazy sound. And yet, here they are, fifteen years and seven albums later, this last one an epic, double album that grips hard on the attention and doesn’t let go.
For me, Beach House finally found their footing with their third album, 2010’s “Teen dream” and they haven’t looked back since, honing their dream pop craft, expanding upon a sound, a single note and breath, and blowing minds all along the way. Each of the albums since then have been masterpieces in their own right, even when they released two albums within five months of each other back in 2015, each shone in its own personality and spotlight.
Their eighth album comes five years after their aptly named 2017 album, “7”, the longest wait between albums that their fans have had to endure thus far. And listening to the album, you can sense the time and the percolation that has gone into it. “Once twice melody” has the feeling of a best of compilation, songs that we have had lasting relationships with, despite them all being brand new compositions. It is intense and full and heavy and our protagonists are well aware of what they are serving us, choosing to serve it up in chunks. The four chapters (or four sides) of the eighteen-track album were introduced a piece at a time as EPs, once a month starting in November of last year and culminating in the final collected work receiving its official release in the middle of February of this year.
All told, “Once twice melody” has the power lull one to sleep, invoke memories, and create the emotional responses akin to those felt when falling in love. The tracks are all brilliant when taken separately but as a whole, they are unstoppable. I feel that most would have their own favourite songs and my own change upon my changing of moods, and these three that I’ve picked for you are just those that tickled my fancy on the day that I decided this album would be on my year end list.
“Over and over“: “The night, that has no end (over and over)… will be the last, my friend… over and over…” This seven minute explosion closes chapter two, feeling like a direct response to Depeche Mode’s “Waiting for the night”. It explores a time and place between the late hours of night and early hours of morning, between waking and dreaming, when angels croon and demons scream. It is magical and wondrous personified. It is white and black and pink. Just close your eyes and float to the energy.
“Masquerade”: “She comes dressed like Sunday, string of pearls around her neck, room of mirrors, days of lace, porcelain and picturesque.” The gongs and walls of wash hint at a dark and demonic Cinderella ball. The “Masquerade” here, like many of the other polaroid snaps on this album, feels very surreal, rife with dry ice and fog, images perceived but not truly seen. It feels sinister but not deadly. The dance partners twirl and bow, play their part, smile and nod, and at the end, the emptiness and sadness pervades.
“Hurts to love”: Chapter four is the finale and track three feels like the perfect climax. “Hurts to love” was released as a standalone single on Valentine’s Day and because of this, it feels like a thesis statement, a call to arms, a raison d’être. It is a fireworks of guitars and synths and Victoria Legrand wooing the world and explaining the meaning of life. “If it hurts to love, better do it anyway.” It is a song for repeat listens, from earphones to dancefloors to pounding speakers. It is the sound of pounding hearts and fluttering eyelids, the feeling of passionate lips, and a glimpse of tear filled eyes. It is love and it should not be ignored, nor taken for granted.
We’ll return in just two more days with album #2. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:
10. Blushing “Possessions”
9. Just Mustard “Heart under”
8. Jeanines “Don’t wait for a sign”
7. The Reds, Pinks and Purples “Summer at land’s end”
6. Tallies “Patina”
5. Suede “Autofiction”
4. Wet Leg “Wet Leg”
You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.