Despite its reputation, seven isn't a lucky number in numerology. Instead, it represents an intensely personal voyage for knowledge and spiritual growth. For Victoria Legrande and Alex Scally, who make up Beach House, that is exactly what their seventh album, 7, represents.
On it, Beach House explore aesthetic influences from the pedal and guitar work of the Cocteau Twins – and, by extension, the impact they had on Spaceman 3 and Spiritualized. (This album's co-producer, Sonic Boom, was a member of the former.) Those are relatively obscure references, unless you're an advanced music nerd, but worth exploring if you enjoy the hazy, blustering vibe of 7.
As a fan of melodic pop, I have found it harder to connect intimately with Beach House since their third album, 2010's Teen Dream. The songs on 7 have a certain drone to them, paired with melodic lines that play out on guitar, keyboard, or whatever other instrument struck their fancy. Legrand long ago decided that she likes her vocals to be buried, not quite letting the lyrics lead the song. While this makes it difficult to sing along to, nearly all of these tracks are worth tracking down a lyric sheet to decipher. The band might prefer that you not and, instead, sit back, let the words your subconscious detects come to you, and let those pair with bits of music that appeal.
Beach House have explored duality for quite some time, as evidenced in the black and white art and graphic design they love, and in their dramatic musical swings from exhilaration to depression. In talking about 7 in press materials, the band say they wanted to explore "the beauty that arises in dealing with darkness; the empathy and love that grows from collective trauma; the place one reaches when they accept rather than deny." If that sounds like a political statement, it may be — but they decline to elaborate, leaving the listener to find a path of their own.
For Beach House, music is not instructive, nor is it a protest; instead, it is the beginning step in a very personal journey. They also say the "twisted double edge of glamour, with its perils and perfect moments, was an endless source [of inspiration]." This could be, among other things, a reflection on the #MeToo movement: Legrand examines the abuses of women on "L'Inconnue," a song about seven girls, one of whom seemingly meets a treacherous end. "Drunk In L.A." describes the kind of party where dark shadows and isolation lead to a sinister ending. In the crushing "Girl of the Year," a woman gets dressed to get undressed, knowing "they all want to see me come undone."
Perhaps it's better to glide along the musical surface of 7 after all, lest you find yourself exploring the most vulnerable parts of yourself.
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