4 / 5
I did not like Beach House prior to Bloom, their critically acclaimed 2012 album. Many people did, but I did not count myself among them. In an era where chillwave was becoming an actual thing, Beach House circa Devotion or Teen Dream seemed too chill for me, a chillness that threatened to lapse into coma at any point. It was dream pop deep into the dream, and at the time I was looking for something more visceral, more raw, and more alive. Bloom, however, caught my ear instantly. Maybe it was being in a state of constant exhaustion by 2012, or maybe it was the fact that the duo sharpened their hooks so that they were too brilliant to be ignored. Either way, it was my gateway into the world of the Baltimore band, and each previous album revealed its slow-burn charms to me afterwards.
Depression Cherry does not have the way with hooks that Bloom did. That is not to say that it is not possessed of its own way with catching the listener’s ear, at all. “Sparks”, “Space Song”, and “PPP” all have backbones that will linger in your consciousness long after you’ve given up on sleep for the night. “Wildflower” has the gentle field of relaxation at its heart that characterized the best parts of Teen Dream. It’s just that, when it comes down to the final reckoning, if Bloom had not existed and the band had gone from Teen Dream to Depression Cherry I would still likely not be a fan of the band.
It has much more in common with their previous efforts than with the radio-ready work of “Myth” or “Other People”. Now, post-Bloom, I can appreciate the subtle textures they weave into the songs: the insistent woodpecker-like percussion on “Bluebird”; the oddly distorted guitar hook on “Sparks”; the pulsing synth punctuation that carries out the album on “Days Of Candy”; the chord progression that characterizes “Levitation”, where it sounds at first like they’ve struck a “wrong” chord and then you realize that it’s actually the only chord that makes sense. Bloom was all about shoving these aspects in your face; Depression Cherry brings them back into the fold, where you can discover them, or not, at your leisure.
Depression Cherry is a solidly Beach House album, and it makes for a perfect demarcation of where Beach House stands: not experimental enough to be Broadcast, too upbeat to be Low, occupying a middle ground that is squarely their own.