Perfect for a dreamy day

Beach houses are lovely indulgences. The stuff of cinematic dreams, they recall days away from work, a suspension of time, even responsibility.

Never mind the facilities. Who would not fall for the privacy and seclusion of the red wooden get-away set in New Penzance Island off the New England coast in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom (2012) as easily as for the jaw-dropping grandeur of the mansion on the coast of Sitka, Alaska, in the rom-com, The Proposal (2009)?

The same feelings are evoked when one thinks of Beach House, the Baltimore dream-pop duo who have been charming the pants off critics since their self-titled debut in 2006.

Their seventh record is simply titled, but as with their trademark candy-floss swirls, there are more potential layers to relish. The number seven is one of the most magical and mystical figures, denoting perfection and transcendence - the world, for one, has been said to be created in seven days.

No, this album was not created in seven days, but with it, vocalist/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and her partner-in-crime, Alex Scally, have produced 77 songs up to that point, and the last track, Last Ride, is exactly seven minutes long.

It is also their dreamiest yet. A casual perusal of the song titles reveals snatches of an urbane narrative obsessed with automobiles, seasons and escapism - dark spring, drunk in Los Angeles, black car, lose your smile, last ride. Such is the elusiveness of Beach House's art - they are more interested to create moods rather than tell a chronological story.



    Beach House

    Sub Pop

    4 stars

The opening track, Dark Spring, starts with a scattershot volley of shoegazing drums, then slides into an interstellar trip. "I want to lie in/They call Orion/The colours missing/Upon the dark spring," Legrand sings, buoyed along on a bed of fuzzy guitars and synths.

Another song, L'Inconnue, meaning "the unknown" in French, is an allusion to a death mask supposedly modelled after a woman who was found dead in the Seine in the 1880s. It is both eerie and romantic. "Seven girls at the end of day/She who sings/She who prays," Legrand purrs, her voice multi-tracked like that of a cathedral choir.

In a statement, the duo say "this record often deals with the beauty that arises in dealing with darkness; the empathy and love that grow from collective trauma". Perchance this is Beach House's antidote for those wrestling with the terrible state of world affairs?

In Drunk In LA, Legrand's unsettling contralto is particularly devastating. Imagining herself as an ageing starlet sitting by herself in a dark corner of a bar, she rasps about "skinny angels making eyes at cameras" and "memory's a sacred meat/That's drying all the time". The music is a sustained drone, like fate, or the marching of time.

That empathy extends to two love letters to actual icons.

In Girl Of The Year, an ode to Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol's glamorously tragic muse who died of ethanol intoxication in the 1960s, she sings: "Get dressed to undress/Depressed to impress" over shimmering synths and lazy drums.

In Last Ride, a tribute to Nico, another Warhol superstar who died of a heart attack riding a bicycle during a holiday in Ibiza in 1988, Legrand, awestruck, re-creates the last minutes of her heroine: "There she goes/On her bike/Earth to the side."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2018, with the headline 'Perfect for a dreamy day'. Print Edition | Subscribe