We all remember Beach House’s 2015 masterpiece, “Depression Cherry”, the band’s medicine for heartache.
And who could forget the full-length LP released just 3 months later? “Thank Your Lucky Stars” didn’t have quite the same emotional power of “Depression Cherry”, but it’s perhaps still one of their most recognizable-sounding albums.
Now that “B-Sides and Rarities” has been released, let’s dive headfirst into Beach House’s past so we can uncover what has been given to us in the present.
Even as a well-grounded fan of Beach House, I will say that almost all of their discography blends into one big boat ride of sound, and I only occasionally recognize a song for its individual title. Many listeners and even Beach House know this, noting many songs sound the same.
Based on my theory, this is heavily due to that iconic “space hum” (as I have dubbed it) that hums in the background of almost every song. But if it were not such a beautiful boat ride, we wouldn’t be here, would we?
“B-Sides and Rarities” is a compilation of songs duo Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand never sought fit for any previous album release. When they noticed just how many songs they had, it seemed like an opportunity for a 14-track album.
Sub Pop released the album on June 30, but fans have been looking forward to the record since the Instagram announcement in May. "B-Sides and Rarities" includes unreleased songs, iTunes Session mixes, and even some remixes.
In this review, I’ll attempt to rate the album’s individual songs before examining the album as a whole.
The album begins with “Chariot," the only single from the album and perhaps the most recognizable. The track features some of the same iconic sounds and riffs from "Depression Cherry," which leads me to think it was meant for that album. As far as “B-sides and Rarities” goes, “Chariot” is an excellent example of what Scally and Legrand are capable of.
The next track, “Baby,” brings the space hum of typical Beach House, though the real central focus is its lyrics. As they often do, Legrand's vocals paint a beautiful scenario of a boy on the uneven grounds of love.
“Equal Mind” amps up the power of the album with loud vocals and keyboard synth without destroying the sound we came for. These loud parts played over that iconic, soft hum show us an interesting balance of what Beach House can do. The song takes you on a journey as Legrand's voice weaves between sounds loud, powerful, calm and heartfelt.
“Used to Be” begins with a beat reminiscent of “10 Mile Stereo," but quickly turns into a toe tapper with the use of a xylophone. It's a childlike, playful ditty that you’ll close your eyes and sway your head to.
“White Moon”, an iTunes Session remix, quickly pulls you into a whirlpool, starting with three tracks of spinning sound, Legrand’s voice, and that tambourine drum. But what would otherwise be overwhelming is kept smooth with constant space hum in the background.
"White Moon" makes me feel like I'm sipping a Piña Colada in space, overlooking the moon’s horizon. It almost sounds like Legrand is whispering the lyrics to you, as though this message is just for your ears. She sings dearly of love coming your way, and the soft hum of "Depression Cherry" carries you the whole way.
“Norway”, another iTunes Session remix, doesn’t bring much to the table and sounds a lot like a regular song with all the regular, necessary parts. It seems to miss that spacey hum that I know Beach House for and definitely sounds like a recorded live session you might hear in a coffee shop.
“Play the Game” is an example of how Beach House can utilize a variety of instruments. This time, Legrand's vocals are much more real, and you are faced with only the reality of her voice and the hum. As the song continues, Scally brings the guitar and tambourine, but the original simplicity of her voice over the hum is all the song really is. I think "Play the Game" defines “B-Sides and Rarities”.
The tide turns instantly when “The Arrangement” starts with only a piano and vocal arrangement. Perhaps this song best exemplifies the band’s status as a “dream pop” group. A little piano ditty is the main foundation of this song. I think its the “cutest” music I’ve ever heard from Beach House.
“Saturn Song” leaves little for the ear: a few hums, a few synth waves, some lyrics here and there. The track leaves you with ethereal feelings unique to each listener.
“Rain in Numbers” starts out fuzzy with an old, janky piano, something I’d expect to hear in an old black and white movie. I didn't even recognize the sound of Legrand's voice in the mix, recorded in 2005 on borrowed instruments as the band was just forming.
To me, this song seems like a buried treasure in the Beach House archive, as if 2005 were 100 years ago. According to Legrand, this was such an exciting time for the band, as they were extremely eager to release "Rain in Numbers" and “Used to Be."
“I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun”, much like “Baby”, grabs you with its lyrics. Aside from that space hum we love, it’s Legrand's gentle voice that creates Beach House’s emotional apogee. Despite the frosty little bit of bells in the background, this is a song purely of voice, one of a few that you can take for all it’s worth.
“10 Mile Stereo”, the eighth track of “Teen Dream” sounds incredibly different from its Cough Syrup remix. I would say “10 Mile Stereo” is the most upbeat song I know by the band.
The remix is slowed down a number of times over, nearing vaporwave style. As a song, it is missing a hook, and is so slow that I feel like my ears are being dragged through the sound. The original “10 Mile Stereo” is easily the better choice.
“Wherever you Go”, the final song on the release, begins like many Beach House tracks with a soft beat before alluring space hum. Legrand's voice comes in again for another perfect product of the Beach House formula. It's an appropriate way to close the album, especially considering the many variations in the 13 songs before it.
Do not let “B-sides” fool you. In fact there are many Beach House songs that you would consider “A-sides."
It’s the “Rarities” that makes this album special, as we are presented with songs that show us the hidden diversity behind cohesive albums, ranging from the band’s formation to their most recent release.
All in all, I'm not proclaiming the brilliance of this album. I might have done that for “Depression Cherry," but I would say "B-sides and Rarities" is the best example of Beach House’s singular boat ride of sound with a little taste of something from every album before it.