Don't tell Beach House anything about sophomore slumps: They are not having it. The Baltimore duo, comprised of vocalist/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist/everything-else-man Alex Scally, recently released their second full-length album, entitled Devotion. The general consensus among most major music outlets is twofold: that the recording easily eclipses their spectacular self-titled debut, and that the duo has reached a new level of maturity and songwriting ability.
Over email, Legrand describes the current state of Beach House on Devotion as "aged and slightly weathered." She adds, "Maybe we are not older on the record, but we're thicker," and, in terms of their newly revamped sound, thicker couldn't be a more accurate adjective.
Compared to their hazy beginnings, Devotion feels like Beach House on a cupped handful of uppers. Their formula is a simple blend of lush, textured vocals, warm organ tones, slight, subtle harmonies, and lots and lots of reverb. It's the same formula that's been used by bands such as Galaxie 500 and Mazzy Star, but damn if it isn't one that works well here. Whereas their self-titled debut found the duo crafting songs that used mood and atmosphere as backbones, and empty space as their honorary third member, Devotion fills those spaces with a generous dose of reverb, in what Legrand calls a "natural evolution" for the band. The gentle drumbeat is more prevalent, the organ sounds warmer and more complete, Legrand's ethereal and rich vocals are more prevalent than before, and the use of varying instruments (harpsichord and pedal steel) blend perfectly with the chilling atmosphere. While Devotion may initially feel isolating, the end result is nothing short of euphoric. It drapes and smothers you like a cold blanket, in which the initial discomfort from lying underneath it can be unbearable, but if you thrash around long enough, you know that sucker is going to heat up.
When asked about her feelings toward the band's current successes, Legrand simply replied, "We were surprised, but we are deeply appreciative. Honestly, we kind of feel the same as we did before. Hopefully we'll notice more people coming to our shows." Her humility is fitting, as even though their sound has swelled over these past few records, that doesn't mean their egos have to grow as well. For Beach House, this is still sublimely precious music, a sound based on feeling, with the rich textures, lush atmosphere, and haunting vocals acting to invoke some sort of response. Whether your reply finds you gazing at your shoes or gazing at the stars is still up for debate, but with music this sweeping, bold, and beautiful, anything is possible.