“You should see/There’s a place I want to take you/When the train comes, I will hold you/’Cause you blow my mind,” sings smoky-voiced Victoria Legrand in the opening minutes of Beach House’s fifth LP, Depression Cherry. It’s a typically cinematic entrée from the Baltimore duo, the soundtrack to lens-flared city lights in the opening credits of some imaginary film, intentionally vague but instantly relatable. Chiming keyboards, winding guitar arpeggios, and programmed percussion meander under Legrand’s reverb-clouded vocals. Beach House’s music possesses limitless beauty, with a turbulent and dark lyrical undercurrent, which will all be on display when they bring their latest world tour to Bogart’s on Friday night.
Beach House is a duo composed of Legrand and multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally. They formed in Baltimore in 2004, and had their breakthrough two years later with their self-titled Carpark Records debut. The record drew particular attention from perennial tastemakers Pitchfork, then just making their ascent to its current prominence, and established the tried-and-true signature sound that has followed the group through their ensuing four records. 2008’s Devotion showed impressive growth, particularly on the opening “Gila.” Legrand’s lyrics are as hazy as the music, fanciful metaphor to be applied to everyday life: “Hoping for the last ship to arrive/I've been blessed with a kingdom, half-mine.”
But they reached their great creative plateau with Teen Dream in 2010, still their greatest achievement. “Anywhere you run/You run with poise”: the repeated refrain of opener “Zebra” can be applied to the band as well. Over the last decade, their output has been infallibly consistent. Dream dominated year-end best album lists, and established Beach House as indie rock kingpins. This also thrust their intimate music into the odd sunlight of huge festival stages; my first live encounter with the duo was in 2010, scheduled on a stage in between Girls and Lightning Bolt, and the swelling mid-afternoon humidity nearly swallowed their lilting melodies. This is work best heard in a darkened club or theater, and thankfully that’s how they’ll bring it to Cincinnati. They managed to follow Teen Dream with its near-equal, Bloom, two years later. In many ways, it felt like a companion piece, the brilliant Revolver to its predecessor’s Rubber Soul.
After the lengthy world tours that followed Bloom, the pair took a well-deserved break before returning this summer with Depression Cherry. The record contains more dissonance, more distortion, disturbing the glassy surface, but the old elements are all there. Beach House seems to espouse the age-old philosophy, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And why, indeed, mess with success? Beach House has quietly become one of the most-lauded and beloved bands of a generation, as massive sold-out runs in San Francisco and Los Angeles prove. So it’s well worth letting them soundtrack an autumn Friday in a small room while you still have the chance.
Beach House with Jessica Pratt
Friday, September 18th
8:00 PM, 7:00 PM doors
Bogart’s, 2621 Vine St. in Corryville