Beach House, 'Thank Your Lucky Stars', Reviewed

Too much of a good thing?
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Since Beach House released their self-titled debut in 2006, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have dropped new albums on two-year cycles as regular a man on bran. While their sound has evolved over time—moving from the harder, less structured groan of Devotion to the spaced-out, stadium filling sprawl of Bloom—the space between releases has made the gradual change in tone and approach part of a fluid, natural, and even inevitable progression.

With the release of Depression Cherry just last month, Beach House added another solid album to their oeuvre. Even though the initial single, “Sparks”, hinted at the possibility of a radical shift in tone, the album was everything we expected—expansive, sexy, and infinitely listenable, arriving just as we tired of Bloom. Great, we thought. See y’all in two years. Instead, just over a month later, Beach House dropped Thank Your Lucky Stars like a bomb, leaving us to wonder what it all meant.

Speculation was everywhere. Was Lucky Stars a collection of B-sides? Would it mark a radical departure from the Beach House brand? One thing, however, seemed agreed upon—for Beach House to deviate so far from their temporal form, Lucky Stars had to be something special.

When the album finally leaked, I listened to it immediately, and then I listened to it again. What I felt was neither surprise nor disappointment, but rather confusion. Everything about Thank Your Lucky Stars was recognizable—that lilting Legrand whisper, those hypnotic synth hooks—and while the songs were beautiful as always, the purpose was unclear. Legrand herself best summarizes my feelings with the second line of album opener “Majorette”: “Nothing is new and neither are you.”

This is the primary problem with Lucky Stars—everything sounds like Beach House, but nothing is distinct to this specific album or era. The consistent evolution of their music toward the large, epic, and ethereal disappears almost completely on Thank Your Lucky Stars, leaving us with an album that seems as much a parody of a Beach House release as an entirely new album. That’s not to say that the music isn’t beautiful—indeed, almost every song on Lucky Stars could fit seamlessly into any pre-Bloom album with hardly an uncomfortable wink. “She’s So Lovely”, in particular, an unearthly ballad about “castles in the sand,” seems like it could have just been dug up from lost Teen Dream session tapes. Once again, the issue is not a lack of good songs, but a lack of anything new about them.

If anything separates Thank Your Lucky Stars from its predecessors, it is a smaller scope and relative darkness. While Beach House has always played at the mysterious and the ethereal, their songs usually carry an unmistakable optimism—even periods of gloom offered the hope of light. By contrast, Lucky Stars standouts like “Common Girl” offer no hope of redemption, telling the story of a woman adrift in her ordinariness, as a happy organ jaunt scoring Legrand’s call that “Nobody special done a good thing/ for somebody else.” Just a few tracks later, “Rough Song”—true to its name—tells of a fight at a cocktail party marked by the line: “Hard to hear she spit on you and made your bloody nose more bloody.”

As welcome as is this darker tone, the unapologetic sonic uniformity makes it difficult to pick out individual songs—often the case with new Beach House releases. The effect, therefore, is largely more of the same. With the excellent Depression Cherry out just two months ago, Beach House would have done better to sit on Lucky Stars, or maybe even have turned the whole thing into one crazy, sprawling double album. As it is now, though, Thank Your Lucky Stars is just not different enough to claim a new space in our iTunes. We’re already saturated. Sometimes, I guess, there really is too much of a good thing. B MINUS