Posted in Album Reviews

Once Twice Melody (2022)

Reaching for something bigger for their eighth album, Beach House released a double album of 18 songs back in February.  Once Twice Melody is separated into four chapters – Pink Funeral, New Romance, Masquerade, & Modern Love Stories – each named for a song in the section.   It’s not unusual for the duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally to release this many tracks, in 2015 they released the albums Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars less than two months apart.  However, a double album is a different beast all together.

The first chapter, Pink Funeral, is one of the album’s best. The title track arrives in a swirl of synths with a soft drum beat appears that sounds like it’s played beneath a pillow.  Strings appear when Legrand delivers the “no matter where you go” line. Throughout the album, many tracks differ in how Legrand uses her voice. A more serious, determined voice brings a harder edge to third single “Superstar” whereas her voice takes a more ethereal, floating quality on “Through Me”.  

Slightly weaker in quality, The New Romance chapter is highlighted by the seven minute opus “Over and Over”. Driven by a simple beat, the song drifts along but adds brighter synths and a shimmering chorus. Masquerade contains two of the albums best tracks.  Acoustic guitars are prominent on “Sunset”  as Legrand reminds us that “just one key ties everything”.  A sun dappled vibe features on “Only You Know” with a echoe-y chant of “Don’t….Blink…”

Once Twice Melody closes with the Modern Love Stories set of tracks.  A basic Casio keyboard beat powers excellent second single “Hurts to Love”. The uplifting song tells listeners that “If it hurts to love/you better do it anyway”. More darker and tension filled is album closer, “Modern Love Stories”. The track has a mature electronic sound that reminds of Pet Shop Boys where “The end is the beginning/beginning to an ending”.

With this many tracks, the Beach House sound both expands and contracts.  Like most double albums a few tracks could have been left on the cutting room floor however, the band sets that floor very high. On Once Twice Melody, Beach House have created an expansive album that envelops the listener into a more dreamy and sumptuous world.  

9/10

Posted in Album Reviews

Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia (2022)

The Irish lads of Fontaines D.C. return with their third album.  Skinty Fia sees the band lyrically look back across the water to their native Ireland after moves to London.  The themes of being Irish and living in the UK is examined on such tracks as the relatively upbeat “Roman Holiday”. First single “I Love You” is a love letter back to their home country over a bed of Joy Division gloom and Conor Deegan III’s low bass rumble.

Darkness opens the album with the gothic cathedral sounds of “In Ar gCroithe Go Deo” and the hypnotic line – “gone is the day, gone is the night, gone is the day”.  Singer Grian Chatten sings of love and addiction over the chiming guitars of “How Cold Love Is”. The drums of Tom Coll starts of “Jackie Down the Line” before Chatten takes over, barely taking a breath.

When the band first started making waves, it was Chatten’s deep singing style and introspective lyrics that was the focus.  As the sound expands, every member plays a key role with the drumming of Coll being a particular highlight.  Sold out shows and multiple award wins doesn’t seem to have dimmed the creative light that burns deep in Fontaines D.C. as they release another compelling album even as the rain lashes outside their British homes.

8/10

Posted in Album Reviews

Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (2009)

In 2008, the Brooklyn formed band Grizzly Bear drew the enviable slot of opening for Radiohead during their North American tour. The four members of the band then headed to Cape Cod to work on their third album that would eventually become Veckatimist. Sung by Daniel Rossen, the album opens with “Southern Point” that contains a jazzy introduction and euphoric percussive chorus.  The memorable keyboard opening and “ooohhhs” to “Two Weeks” are unmistakable on a song that also features backing vocals from Victoria Legrand from Beach House and swooning vocals from Ed Droste.

A cool bass strut opens “Cheerleader” where Droste later whispers the vulnerable, “I’m cheerleading myself/I shouldn’t really matter”. The propulsive guitar powers “Ready, Able” that adds keyboard effects at the end and the steady drumming of Christopher Bear who’s work is often a highlight. Bassist and producer Chris Taylor introduces an effective spare tension in “About Face” that uses spaces to let the music breathe.

What’s remarkable about the album is the intricacy of nearly every song’s introduction that create their own little worlds.  Where your love of Grizzly Bear may start/stop is on the dramatic singing of both Droste and Rossen that can make songs sound like they are ripped from a theatrical play.  With all the pieces together, Veckatimist is a quietly beautiful piece of work that at times can swell from its musical depths and suddenly demand attention before floating away again.   

8/10