Monday, March 16, 2009

Album of the Week: Beach House- Devotion

"Music is kind of like a dream for me...The dream brings me closer to my soul."
--Mike Gordon

When you listen to Beach House, time seems to slow down. Though Devotion is only 44 minutes long it seems to be fed into the IV tube of your soul (or heart, if you prefer), a constant steady drip feed of beauty, melody, organs, guitars, subtle/minimalist electronic drums, and reverb drenched production. That 44 minutes drifts through your opium-like daze for what feels like an hour and a half. It is music that on the surface sounds lonely, despairing, and desolate but on closer inspection blooms into a world of color and warmth, filling the room with sound.

Certain music has the power to color and distort the world around you, forcing you to, say, quicken down your pace while out for a walk, to make people around you seem crueler and more unrecognizable, or to make what is otherwise a silent, still room burst with life and sound. Devotion does this last one, but it isn't a loud rock album; that's not how it fills the room. All of its frequencies worm their way into every crevice and open space, somehow even its silences resounding back at you, tiny organ notes or wordless sigh choruses wrapping you in a sound. Rarely with an album so subdued and quiet do I feel the silence between songs just as much as I hear it.

Dream pop is a sub-genre of music that, at least for my taste, walks a fine line between too relaxed/patient and just relaxed/patient enough. The Cocteau Twins never hooked me but Beach House sure has. All of the ideas and sounds on Devotion were present on Beach House's self-titled debut but they weren't as developed or well executed as they are here. You may need to give it a few chances to 'get' what is so astonishing about it; soon, though, its hazy, lovely sounds and deliberate melodies will creep into--yes--your dreams and daydreams, bubbling below the surface to pop up during various parts of the day. Listening to Devotion at work on headphones, hardly paying attention to it or listening to it in bed before I fall asleep...through both methods it has seeped into me like a bag of tea steeping in a pot of scalding hot water. Victoria Legrand's laments about the loss of and joyous pledges of love continue to resonate with me for reasons I can't really explain. "Resonate" is a great word to use here because not since Galaxie 500 has of reverb seemed so essential to a band's sound. True, Legrand's voice would be mesmerizing without it, but it's that same difference between hearing Galaxie 500's 'Tugboat' without reverb on the live versions and hearing it with it on the studio one. It's still a great song, but that reverb takes on a life of its own, the slight echoes as important as the origin itself. So it is with her voice, as if her voice isn't a singular thing but holds the weight of a chorus in its clutches.

I doubt if anyone who's never been in love will feel the same about Devotion because it is a work so bound up in the feelings associated with romance and the loss thereof. Animal Collective's Feels was described by the band as their 'love' album, and every song on that album has an euphoria about it that registers with you subconsciously far before you come to the conclusion after examining the lyrics. Devotion is a slipperier creature. It's not so overt with its concept onn a subconcious level and is both more measured about love and goes to greater depths on a conscious/lyrical one. After all, it's one thing to sing, as the Collective did, "I got a big big big heart beat yeah, I think you are the sweetest thing" and another, as Beach House does, to sing about devotion--not religious, mind you--at least twice on an album named Devotion. To devote yourself to someone, this is not something you say lightly. That religious connotation is there even if you've used the word so often in a non-religious context that most of that is lost. This album may remind you of similarly strong feelings you've had for someone, wanting to do everything you can to make them happy and to feel loved.

Devotion was one of 2008's most overlooked and underrated releases. Even I didn't get around to it until this year. If you're at all inclined to the idea of music that is dreamy, slow, and hazy yet conjures up feelings of love and cozy warmth, Devotion is a must buy.

No comments: