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Posted on August 14th, 2015 (10:00 am) by Michael Negron

"We're going back to the basics."

It's the most feared phrase a music fan can hear. Such a simple idea has become comically cliché, infecting nearly every genre, tainting longevity itself. It takes many other forms: a "stripped down" approach or returning "to your roots" among the more popular variants. In theory it's not a bad idea, but as I've said before, simplicity is a dual-edged sword. The problem lies in execution and intent; more often than not, cynicism is the overriding sentiment driving the change, rather than an earnest attempt at (re)capturing something between the notes. Depression Cherry is rare, in that it is neither cynical nor fervent; it's lifeless.

People often talk about the over-saturation of dream pop, whose aesthetic has breached into and blended with many sister genres. The concern is a lack of identity, and begins with the increasingly common question of whether there's anything behind the fuzz and reverb. Beach House have given us a resounding "yes" over a decade-long tenure, but the choices they've made – or failed to make – to delineate Depression Cherry as a part of that chronology are thoroughly confusing; the rather sizable pre-release critical response, owing to a leak about a month prior to this review, has yielded the frustratingly consistent narrative among detractors that Beach House are pining for accessibility. But Depression Cherry isn't much more accessible than Bloom, and rather than PR-friendly feel-good, the band has opted for something closer to waking from a coma. There are many albums that touch on something pleasant and innocuous, but Depression Cherry is not that. There's a part that's missing, an angle, something that would elevate it to the "bland but wistful" it might be mistaken for at first.

Everything is at peak presentation but it's a pointless endeavor. Depression Cherry never even gains the motivation to get off the ground. What results is an album that is stripped of more than its sonic density; with little variation, few surprises, and no identity, Depression Cherry struggles to distinguish itself not only within its genre, but also within the style that Beach House had seemingly mastered. Here, they've not so much parodied that style as lethargically distanced themselves from it, never getting anywhere and yet far removed from the sound they had at points made all their own.

When the band, or at least their PR, says they've made "a return to simplicity," it's a little too on-the-nose. It speaks to a knowing that is poorly represented by their choice in a lead single; the quiet ferocity of "Sparks" is by far the best the album has to offer, and hints strongly at a more logical progression that isn't. In that way, it makes an obvious choice for lead single, but is also verging on misrepresentative. It carries the same surgical glaze as the rest of the record, but with vibrancy everything else sorely lacks. Without that key element, what remains is a genuine attempt and frustrating failure at simplifying a formula that never needed it, and a record that is simple and basic to the point of regression.

Track List:

  1. Levitation
  2. Sparks
  3. Space Song
  4. Beyond Love
  5. 10:37
  6. PPP
  7. Wildflower
  8. Bluebird
  9. Days of Candy
Beach House - Depression Cherry
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

35 / 100
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