ALBUM REVIEW: Beach House, Once Twice Melody
Updated: Mar 11, 2022
After my review of the mostly flawless hour and 20 minute long Big Thief record, I’ve realized what makes or breaks long albums. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe You is constantly trying to pursue a specific purpose. Whether that be lyrically with a slowed down ballad, aesthetically with a switch of the instrumental palette, or viscerally with a raging guitar solo, Big Thief is always making the right choice. Even though there are 20 total tracks, plenty of room to fuck up, the band never really makes anything below really good. After seeing that Beach House’s eighth record Once Twice Melody was an hour and 6 minutes, I couldn’t help but compare the two. The reason why this is a B- and DNWMIBY is an A- is because this album has trouble switching it up to accomplish anything. We don’t get any speedy 2-minute tracks with a frantic vocal solo to convey anxiety, or an expansive, synthy 8-minute cut that simulates going into the afterlife. We get virtually no surprises, although there are some new shapes their formula molds into that are worthwhile.
“Pink Funeral” and “Runaway” are two of them, replacing their light drum programming with some more tactile, cinematic ones that blast their sound into the modern era. The former is especially a highlight for me, I love the juxtaposing imagery especially, “Swans on a starry lake, hearts that were made to break/Tears through your white lace veil.” The idea of a “pink funeral” mentioned with a “white lace veil” is very evocative to me, it’s like weddings are tied to funerals by the continuum of time. With a relatively unchanging vocal presence from lead singer Victoria Legrand, imagery reigns supreme amongst the good qualities of Once Twice Melody. On “Masquerade”, we get a particularly creepy ‘80s spin on the Beach House sound that reminds me of Cocteau Twins, with lyrics like “Room of mirrors, days of lace/Porcelain and picturesque.” “Illusions of Forever” delivers a more classic sound for the duo, with echoed out vocals singing, “Diamonds down her back/Sunshine in her lap/Centuries of light/Rubies in her hair.” In this way, the music of Beach House has become a late-period Nicolas Winding Refn film, focusing primarily on emotional bliss and gorgeous colors, not so much on writing or doing anything particularly new.
Still, as a longtime fan of Beach House, I can’t help but indulge myself in this sparkling hour of sound. While the group isn’t reinventing themselves like they did on songs like “Zebra” or “Lazuli”, I’m comfortable resting in their comfort zone with them. “New Romance” is a nostalgic and silly portrait of a devoted relationship, with Legrand spelling out “I love you so fucking much” as an acryronm (“I-L-Y-S-F-M”). The synth leads are straight out of a Daniel Lopatin score, blaring and swirling infinitely. “Superstar” charges up in the same way that all Beach House songs do on top of lush synth pads, but quickly transitions into a more concrete indie rock jam with crystal clear vocals and a sticky melody. “Through Me” also sees them really swimming in a sea of bliss, fully embracing the hazy effects before being played out by a compelling combination of strings and trappy hi-hats.
Yet, even with all these classic sounds and slightly new additions to the Beach House machine, I still can’t excuse the run of songs from “Sunset” to “Another Go Round”:, which are all totally forgettable. Again, albums don’t have to be an hour long. Those songs and maybe “ESP” could’ve been cut and it would’ve resulted in a much more concise project. Instead, we get a lot of great highlights amongst some duds. Fantano said it with Bloom, but I’ll say it now because I’ve liked their input up until this point. This band desperately needs a new sound, and I can’t do another album of this. This album is a B-, a Standout, on the principle of it being a very good and different enough Beach House record. The next one will likely not be so fortunate.