Since its inception, indie pop duo Beach House has been one of the most consistent acts in music, releasing seven very good albums while rarely venturing far from their lo-fi dream pop roots. There’s no denying that the group is capable of soothing any listener with their distinctive, ethereal sound — they put the listener to sleep, in a good way. But can they keep the listener awake? Can they make captivating, boundary-pushing music without sacrificing what makes them so unique and charming?
Once Twice Melody, the band’s latest album, proves that the answer to those questions is yes. It’s unmistakably a Beach House album, yet it’s also a revolutionary project, both for the band and for modern music as a whole. Instead of releasing the record in a conventional manner — putting out one or two singles to build anticipation before releasing the other songs all at once a few weeks later — Once Twice Melody came out in four 20-minute chapters over a three-month span beginning last November. It was a risky gambit by Beach House, but in hindsight was the perfect way for One Twice Melody to be released. Instead of dropping a gargantuan double LP on our heads, Beach House gave us four cohesive yet distinctive projects that hold up particularly well as bite-sized episodes.
Beyond its innovative structure, Once Twice Melody also sees Beach House make musical strides in a new, refreshing direction, which is immediately clear on the record’s first chapter. The opening track features a luscious mixture of electronic and acoustic instruments, along with soothing vocals by the wonderful Victoria Legrand. The song showcases the group’s variety, which is expanded upon even further on the third track, “Pink Funeral”: Underneath their dream pop umbrella, Beach House is able to fit both passionate lyrics based on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and a high-energy beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on a modern rap song (perhaps one by Kanye West?). Chapter One of the record is overall a stellar introductory segment: No matter what they try, Beach House can do no wrong as they master a diverse mixture of sounds.
The highlights of the album as a whole are the moments where Beach House elevate the intensity of their sound above its sleepy base state. In addition to “Pink Funeral,” Chapter Two’s “New Romance,” Chapter Three’s “Masquerade” and Chapter Four’s closing track, “Modern Love Stories,” are standout, attention-grabbing songs. However, Beach House’s greatest strength has always been their downtempo, drone-like indie rock style, which still serves as the backbone of this project despite its new directions. Songs like “Sunset” and “Another Go Around” demonstrate that Beach House is still more than capable of making calming and pleasant songs.
Despite its length, Once Twice Melody is an outstanding album as a whole, due to its unique segmented structure and the impressive overall quality of each of its songs. Each of the record’s chapters is incredibly balanced, functioning well both as a standalone listening experience and a unit within a larger project. For as strong as Beach House’s output has been in the past decade, Once Twice Melody manages to reach another level and shows that the band is just as talented now as they were when they first hit the scene.
Daily Arts Writer Jack Moeser can be reached at email@example.com.