Album Review: Beach House, ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’
When an artist releases two albums in a short span of time, it's only natural that the two works are going to be thought of as companion pieces. It's also inevitable that the second one will to some degree get overshadowed by the first. Even though dream pop duo Beach House are insisting that they conceived their sixth full-length Thank Your Lucky Stars as a stand-alone album in its own right, its surprise release not even two full months after their last album Depression Cherry almost necessitates probing for any signs of a relationship between the two sets of songs.
Again, the band has made a point of clarifying that Thank Your Lucky Stars is not to be regarded as a collection of leftover b-sides, though listeners might jump to that conclusion knowing that these new songs were recorded at the same time as the ones that appear on Depression Cherry. On paper, it's a risky move for a band that's essentially made a career out of sticking to the same stylistic parameters. But the differences between the two albums become strikingly clear right from the live drum hits at the beginning of album opener "Majorette."
In the simplest terms, vocalist-keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist-keyoardist Alex Scally have crafted a considerably more stripped-down sound this time. Where Depression Cherry's heavy washes of reverb and sparkling guitar effects evoked an almost limitless sense of space, Thank Your Lucky Stars feels like walking into a band's tiny rehearsal room and listening from a dusty corner. Drums, the organ tone that dominates the album, and even Legrand's voice are all presented not as shiny but as bare and unpolished. Here, the densely layered shoegaze style Legrand and Scally cultivated on Depression Cherry gives way to the vintage Velvet Underground/Nico-esque approach that they leaned on so blatantly early in their career.
After the promise of Depression Cherry, Thank Your Lucky Stars once again begs the question of how much range Beach House actually have – or whether they have it and just don't care to explore it much. At first, Thank Your Lucky Stars suggests that Scally and Legrand are content to just keep tweaking their sound at the level of the surface impression it makes. But it doesn't take long before intentionally out-of-tune guitar solos and other gnarled elements betray rougher emotional edges that lend weight and substance to the material in spite of its gentle – and all too familiar – flow.
Fans who've been around the block with Beach House and keep coming back for more are no doubt comfortable with the pair's dogged consistency by this point. As such Thank Your Lucky Stars provides a counterpoint to Depression Cherry. Whether or not you feel like this album offers much of a diversion from previous work, though, depends on how much you appreciate Scally and Legrand's ability to make microscopic adjustments to their sound.