Yesterday, Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House announced that they would be releasing their new album Once Twice Melody in four separate EP-length releases between now and the official release date of the full album in February of 2022. Today, the band dropped the first four songs as
The idea to release the songs as four different releases came together as the band were sequencing their new material. Band members Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally began to notice a narrative when songs were placed in a certain order, and eventually a full story in four different chapters began to emerge.
“They 100% fit as one overarching, 1-18 story. And so that was part of the discovery of realising that it could be broken into four chapters, but also work as one,” singer Victoria Legrand explained to Apple 1 Music’s Matt Wilkinson. “We utilised a lot more of our imaginations, and our editing, and just thinking about it. It didn’t just feel like a regular, like another album of ours, it felt like a larger, newer kind of way of looking at our music, cinematic, literary.”
Despite the band’s attempts to branch out with a larger scope on Once Twice Melody, the music from Chapter 1 indicates that the duo are sticking to their tried and true formula for producing music: atmospheric synth pads, heavy use of reverb, a fascinating mix of live and mechanical drum sounds, and Legrand’s detached, Nico-esque drawl. For devotees of the band’s electronica shoegaze sound, these four tracks will prove that Beach House are just as vital as they’ve always been.
I tried to pick up the narrative that the band were going for by pouring over the lyrics of the firs four songs. ‘Once Twice Melody’ and ‘Superstar’ seem to follow a starlet in the making, as their ascension coincides with a failed relationship, which is then blown out to dramatic highs on ‘Pink Funeral’. ‘Through Me’ tracks through the past to see what went wrong, but it fades without a solid resolution, perhaps as a cliffhanger for the next chapter.
This is almost certainly too literal of a reading: just because there’s a connective through line to the songs doesn’t explicitly mean that they have to perfectly fit together. Nowhere in their promotion has the band ever stated this to be a concept album, and Legrand specifically kicks back at the idea that this is a “rock opera” in her discussion with Wilkinson. The band want to be dramatic, but being cogent or coherent has never been a major concern for the band before.
And it doesn’t remain one now. The only problem with Once Twice Melody Chapter 1 is that the band talk a big game about expanded horizons, wider scopes, and bigger swings without actually seeming to follow through. Once Twice Melody has all the instantly recognisable elements that have made Beach House one of the most indelible indie bands of the past decade, and the four songs that comprise Chapter 1 are well within the band’s signature wheelhouse, but also their spaced-out comfort zone.
It’s a strong first showing for the band and a promising sign of things to come for the rest of Once Twice Melody, but if you were hoping to find Beach House charting a new and exciting direction for the future you’ll be slightly disappointed. It feels a little nitpicky to say one of the best indie duos isn’t constantly innovating, but there remains a palpable sense of safety to their new output. Same old Beach House, but that’s certainly not a complaint.