For the last ten plus years, Baltimore's Beach House has been making slow burning music that haunts and thrills in various terms. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have managed to have a more fulfilled and full sound with just two members than many full bands. Album after album has grown in texture and artistry and in turn it’s help them to become one of the better known indie bands of the last several years. Today we discuss the Top Ten Beach House songs. Enjoy!
10. Sparks, Depression Cherry
“Sparks” begins with an ethereal backing track, yet manages to just as easily enter into a translucent guitar arrangement that sounds like Beach House with the guitar prowess of Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The song never gets too busy and fast paced, like most of the band’s other tracks, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring or even vague. On the newish album, “Depression Cherry,” this track helps to bring in new ideas, while also reminding you of what type of music Beach House is capable and comfortable doing.
9. Wedding Bell, Devotion
This was the first track I’d ever heard from Victoria and Alex, but from the first moments I was both entranced and curious where the next song would take me. It’s winding and reclusive at the same time, with Legrand’s voice creeping through darkness. Looking back, you can see that the band always needed better production to fulfill their ultimate perfect song, but for a band so heavy on lavish, complex beats, Beach House does exceedingly well in bringing the ideas to the front, even though the music isn’t as full as efforts that followed it.
8. On the Sea, Bloom
Sometimes, just sometimes, a song can perfectly capture the spirit and essence of the track’s title, while also managing to put you right into the world the band creates. That’s true of our number eight pick for the Top Ten Beach House songs. “On the Sea” burns with regrets, big and small, and the pain and hurt in knowing you can’t go back all the time. Victoria LeGrand’s voice luminates feelings I didn’t know I even had, and it’s that kind of strength and emotional capability that makes Beach House a perfect band for longing days and mythological nights under the solar system of our vast galaxy.
7. Lover of Mine, Teen Dream
Another track filled with beats and vocals that are both mysterious and positive, “Lover of Mine” is one of the better songs on the band's 2010 majestic “Teen Dream,” and it seems effortless in the way it perfectly blends the semi-electronic elements in the band and the how those same beats further elevate Victoria’s vocals to the distant yet warm qualities of her voice. It’s slightly more upbeat than other tracks, but in its dim glow it provides the light for us to vanish and worship the night.
6. Space Song, Depression Cherry
On the Baltimore duo’s fifth album, the sounds are fuller and darker while at the same time drawing you in like the other records do, but there’s something more. It’s more distant and longing, and the enhanced production quality helps to bring these notions to perfect culmination. The beat is as dark as it is whimsical, like something you might hear in Ridley Scott’s “Legend.” Victoria’s voice continues to graze the surface of a dying planet, while the cold beats pulse rhythmically to create a world where everything just “Falls back into place.”
5. Zebra, Teen Dream
“Teen Dream’s” opening of “Zebra” not only shows us where the band was at musically during the recording of this album, but how much they manage to grow with every release, even at a pace that hardly lends any helping hands in staying afloat and original. Most bands that average a release every two years or so have difficulty growing, but for the Baltimore twosome it seems easy and second nature in their ability to continue to grow under the difficult light of releasing and touring so consistently
4. Walk in the Park, Teen Dream
At number four on the Top Ten Beach House songs, comes around a track that very much lies directly in sync with the songs title. I picture the dark surrounding of a forest, roaming with sidewalks tucked under blooming trees, and the joy of being at peace and understanding with something fading away and being replaced with something else. The beat is mid tempo and invigorating in a strange short of way, but it’s more than enough to bring the element of surprise to a song that can be both uplifting musically and downtrodden lyrically and vocally. It’s one of the best things Beach House does as a band, and they continue to excel at this quality.
3. Gila, Devotion
One of the darker, more David Lynch-esque tracks the band has to offer, it shows you Beach House from early in their time as a band, but also fits nicely in the direction they’ve continued to head towards later in their career. The track is somewhat basic, but for a band full of ideas and ways to get to their desired goals, it shows how much they’ve added in their more recent years. The song flows like a solemn heartbeat, never slowing or speeding, but rather beating continuously in a mysterious manner, uncertain of where the destination is.
2. Norway, Teen Dream
A song that’s perfect for a night under white christmas lights, dancing and smiling into the coming dawn with someone who understands you, “Norway,” shines brighter, quite a bit more than a vast majority of the band’s recordings. It’s still not an easy going song though, but it’s somewhat optimistic, compared to other songs. It’s also easy to get lost in the world painted here, which ultimately makes the song better and more meaningful to the listener. I’m not saying i’m completely obsessed still with this song, but i wouldn’t mind a full album of material like this.
From the opening of the bells to the hazy beats surrounding the track, “Myth” stands as not only the best opening song in the band’s catalog, but also as the Number One song in Beach House’s arsenal. It winds down a lonely road as the stars fill the atmosphere amid a dying blue sky. Alex provides perfect ambiance for Legrand’s haunting voice, while at the same time making sure that everything is tightly arranged and perfectly contrasting in the way the hopefulness of the music intertwines with the uncertainty of Victoria’s voice. Thanks for reading!
ALSO A QUICK PSA: As you can see, my posts have become somewhat infrequent, and all the trying in the world isn’t making it any easier. I’m writing at this point not only for this space, but when I can for another excellent website, Xs Noize, as well as a local magazine here in New Orleans, “Where Y'at!”
I’ve been trying and failing to keep up the usual three post a week traffic flow, but I think from here on out I’m gonna start focusing on longer, more thought out pieces here, instead of what I’ve been doing. Look for these posts more in the time frame of every week, at least once, as well as more original pieces less focused on individual bands or albums, and more in depth pieces. Basically expect more album reviews, more show reviews, less top tens, and more large pieces about the history of certain bands. Thanks again for reading, see you soon!
For every great band that is welcoming and open with how they develop their creativity, there’s a band like Montreal’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor.” Ok maybe not every band, but over the course of twenty-two years, this orchestral apocalyptic ensemble have managed to make some of the most thought provoking music I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Today we add another album to the “Albums of my Life” series with their groundbreaking, transcendent debut “F♯ A♯ ∞.” Enjoy
Now this isn’t your typical album, and thus, will play out differently from most of my other album pieces. The record itself, best suited for listening as you read Cormac’s superb “The Road,” opens with murmurings and reverb, and out of nowhere a deep, old voice creeps over our ears. His words, omens and reminders of what a desolate life is like, fill the listener with gloom and desperation. The violins start much in the way a fire that will warm the stranded residents of a world left behind.
This record never gets full speed like other records do, but rather it envelopes you in a post ash world where hope is maligned and forgotten, where hope is something that gets you one step closer to realizing not only that time has passed you by, but that death is actually knocking at your door, willing and ready to save you from whatever you have found yourself in. Now these songs are long, but if you’re reading this and are familiar with the band, you already know this band brings it when it comes to song lengths.
The three most prominent and early members of the band, Menuck, Moya and Pezzente, all thrive at their instruments, but that’s where the visibility of the group ends in blown up expectations. Seeing GY!BE live, you never get a sense of any of them. They as a collective have worked hard for that mysterious quality, and for the type of music they deliver, it works perfectly. Much like Tool, the members of the band focus on the music and leave the bullshit at the door. This helps to build a stronger narrative for the art being presented. Not every band could work under these circumstances, but they do.
The big moment of the record for me though, is track two, “East Hastings.” At a easy going seventeen minutes and some change, the track escapes first through anger filled yells and bagpipes flailing in the wind. More sounds obscure the atmosphere, much in the way darkness hides the path of least resistance. It’s here that the guitar becomes center stage, like the aftermath of a giant fight in which both combatants attempt to keep going. As a slow motion struggle ensues, the clouds black and fierce, cascade over the valley of lost promises and shattered ideals. The fighting pit, as it’s known, isn’t a pit at all, but the world we now know.
As Godspeed, the musicians are able to create tension in the most minimal of ways. A guitar part here, a wind chime off in the distance there, slow building gestations filling up the malevolent sky. It’s not until the seven minute mark when the song comes full spectrum and an accompaniment of various instruments saunter onto the landscape of dread. These next few minutes are the best, and most apocalyptic the band has to offer.
A faint, dainty voice scrambles over, telling us a story of how the house we all share fell apart, leaving us with nothing but dirt and the clothes on our backs. As the demonic orchestra rolls on, the song builds tempo like the Gestapo breaking down walls and doors to get what they want. The terror is alive as you run and run into the blindness of the world, and you wonder if you’ll ever expect the tyranny of persecution of the evil ones. Finally, everything stops, and for a moment, serenity fills you, even though you know it’s momentary at best.
The last song begins, and with it, a bright glow from the forest you have ventured out of begins to miraculously glow in the night sky. Bad news you tell the others, and before long, the sound of footsteps and hushed urgency fill the surroundings. If you just escape this last terror you can be free, and everything will have worked itself out.
By minute ten the band is full steam ahead, with all cylinders rolling, until finally a drum crash awakens you to a world mostly at peace, and you realize it’s all been a dream. The murmurings of voices you hear is just the voice of the music you’ve been besieged by for the last fifty minutes or so. You haven’t found the end of the world, but rather, the closing track of the album,”Providence.” it’s a song that brings you through the dumpster fire of existence, while showing the light at the end of the tunnel. The light isn’t death, but rather the ability to accept the good with the bad, the darkness with the light, and the knowledge that even a band as somber in moments as Godspeed You! Black Emperor is capable of truly beautiful, awe inspiring music. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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