Greatness can take time to develop: years of false starts, quiet experiments, and public failures along with work that gently grasps at the fringes of one’s best possible ideas without ever entirely taking hold. For a few albums, these elements characterized the work of Beach House.
The Baltimore-based duo comprised of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have produced tremendous work brimming with sparse, spindly synths and earworm melodies. But on 7, the group’s shortest, most accomplished, and confident record, Beach House has finally leaned into the sheer force of their music.
There were hints of this before, most notably on 2015’s Depression Cherry, a masterful nine-song collection harkening back to the minimalism of their earliest work, like their self-titled debut and their winsome sophomore record Devotion. “Sparks,” Depression Cherry’s lead single, promised something newer and more propulsive bubbling just under the surface. On Bloom and Teen Dream, the group perfected their affinity for nostalgia-laden songs. But on 7, those sonic elements melded into their purest form, proving a group more than a decade into the industry can still experiment on their records—and delight.
Opener “Dark Spring” sets the new precedent within the first few seconds with a spattering of propulsive percussion. It’s an immediate spark, one that introduces listeners to, if not a new Beach House, certainly a unique one. As the track’s hyper-layered synths and guitar envelop the listener in a wall of sound eerily similar to the poppier moments of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, it is clear that 7 is an album of sonic experiments for a group only touching upon those instrumental elements in the past.
These surprises continue as the album progresses. Closer “Last Ride,” which features a surprisingly perfect combination of simple piano keys and piercing synths, is a dreamy, yet intense ride for the haziest days of summer. “L’Inconnue” is perhaps one of the record’s most unusual tracks. A minute or so in, the track employs the depths of its soft-spoken vocals as precisely as its organ-like synths to create a mashup of a song that never sounds the same from one moment to the next.
But 7’s most enjoyable moment arrives squarely in “Dive.” The song, which began as one of the promotional singles for the record, is the perfect example of the old Beach House blending with the Beach House of today. Two-and-a-half minutes of comforting wall-of-sound synths paired with Legrand’s vocals segue into a confident, energetic, guitar-drenched wallop of a banger. It is a cacophony of sonic beauty melding into one perfect, precise piece of music, a distillation of the album as a whole. If Beach House exhibited timidness in the construction and execution of their past music, they’ve abandoned this notion on 7—a short, precise album which is equal parts inventive and masterful.