As numerals go, it doesn’t get any luckier or more popular than 7, still very much the world’s favourite magic number. As well as representing some interesting connections in numerology, the number 7 also reigns supreme as the most significant and revered digit of them all, spreading across several religions and cultures as well as featuring prominently in some of the world’s most celebrated fictional works – The Seventh Seal, The Seven Samurai and The Secret Seven to name but a few.
7 also happens to be the name of Beach House’s gorgeous new album, aptly titled as it is because as well being the band’s seventh album, the duo of Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand have now written and released a total of 77 songs together. Now, if all those 7’s stacked up is not somehow channelling some sort of auspicious spiritual force then consider me a non believer.
And just like Beach House themselves, seven is a bit of an awkward bugger of a number in that it can’t be divided – Scally and Legrand have been together for 13 years now and going from strength to strength – and won’t bend to the rules so easily. Pledging to rethink old methods and shed some self-imposed limitations for their new record, the Baltimore bred duo – accompanied by their live drummer James Barone – decided to follow their muse and do whatever came naturally, letting their creative moods, instead of instrumentation, dictate the album’s feel.
Consequently, there are songs with no guitar, some without keyboards and some with the kind of dense layers and elaborate production that the band could not possibly hope to recreate live. While envelopes are liberally being pushed on 7, the album somehow manages to sound fresh and new without losing the essence of what made Beach House’s sublime dream pop brew so seductive in the first place.
The result is Beach House’s best record to date – a sublime 11 song collection that veers seamlessly between trippy and majestic sounding, each track honed to perfection and underpinned by immersive, indelible melody. Swapping out longtime producer Chris Coady for Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember of Spaceman 3 and Spectrum fame in the role of co-producer alongside the band, 7 comes across as the band’s dreamiest and most accessible collection of songs thus far, equal measures lush chillwave and stately, melancholic dream pop and all set against an achingly beautiful wash of organic sound.
Kember was said to the driving force behind the album, helping the band shed conventions from the creative process and protecting the record from the destructive forces of studio overproduction and over-development, and credit must go to him for doing whatever it took to get the band’s songs to sound this amazing – all warm and polished with an unforced grandeur that is hard to resist and an immediacy that gives it an almost pop-tinged feel. Kember’s masterful sonic tweaking has added weight to the band’s bottom end, giving them a harder edge, whilst still retaining the dream-like quality of the duo’s trademark sound.
Dark Spring – the best of four singles to be broken off from the album – kicks off the album on a high, a more uptempo affair than your normal Beach House fare that is carried along by a fizzing synth line and an incessant drum pattern. As opening salvos go, Dark Spring certainly does the trick in grabbing the attention from the off. The other singles from 7 are Lemon Glow, Dive and Black Car, four superlative tracks that did the job of hyping up expectations prior to the album’s release, such was their high quality. With singles this good, you just knew that the album was going to be special.
Lead single Lemon Glow ebbs and flows like a pop song, albeit a dark one cascading in reverb. The track sounds familiar and inviting like a classic Beach House tune, but with a noisier, industrial vibe. Definitely one of the standout tracks on the album. Dive starts off as a slow burning Spaceman 3-esque trip out number before building up into a stomping psychedelic anthem with soaring guitars and pummelling drums while Black Car is a sumptuous cinematic beauty that swirls in hypnotic fashion with Legrand’s sonorous ice maiden vocals taking centrestage.
Elsewhere, the wonderful Pay No Mind is an enchanting, slow motion pop ballad that comes across like The Shangri-Las covering The Jesus and Mary Chain produced by Kevin Shields doing his best Phil Spector impersonation (phew!), while both Woo and Drunk In LA hark back to band‘s earlier work, all watery reverb – drenched synths and celestial vocals.
There’s an acoustic guitar dancing with swirling synths on the poppy, Mazzy Star-esque highlight Lose Your Smile, adding some welcome new textures to the classic Beach House sound. On the unusual, cinematic sounding L’Innconue, Legrand’s ghostly, multi tracked vocals draw listeners into a hazy dreamscape. Sprawling seven minute closer Last Ride sees out proceedings on an epic high, the song building intently towards an outro of sustained, distorted guitars and warm feedback.
By retooling their sound in a quest for creative rebirth and rejuvenation, Beach House have created their best album yet, an immensely listenable masterpiece of melancholy, mood and majestic melody. A near faultless record, who knew that seventh heaven would sound this beautiful? At the end of the year, don’t be surprised to see 7 vying for the top spot on the usual Album Of The Year lists.