Beach House will keep you warm through the winter

By Megan Wang

Band names have never really made much sense. The Grateful Dead, the Moldy Peaches and André 3000 wouldn’t exactly describe the music each artist produces. But, ah, in the wintertime, Beach House has it spot on. Singer Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally uniquely capture the feeling of a Montauk beach house in the wintertime through their dreamy, near-melancholic meandering.

While their self-titled debut album contained one of the freshest sounds on the scene, it wasn’t exactly perfect. The tracks became repetitive, blurring into one another toward unmemory. Their sophomore release, which can make or break a career, fixes that problem, taking a well-established sound and fleshing it out. “Devotion” proves that their musical skill has promulgated and matured, with deeper textures and a more accomplished sound working towards one of the most notable releases of 2008.The opening waltz-track “Wedding Bells” showcases their development, oscillating between major and minor, with Scally even romping on the guitar. Noise embellishments add another layer of interest to the composition, a theme continuing throughout “Devotion.”

Simple drum machine beats and slide guitar on “Gila” echo their self-titled release, but Legrand has become more liberal with vocals, spanning a wider range and losing fear of singing for the sake of singing. The guitar work is beautiful, floating above the beat and churning organ. The elaboration is intense, yet tasteful, letting studio production enhance thesound without becoming a distraction. Legrand’s lyrics are pensive and prosaic: “Sure, you’ve got a handle on the past/It’s why you keep your little lovers in your lap/Give a little more than you like/Pick apart the past, you’re not going back/So don’t you waste your time.”

“Holy Dances” reminisces on Coney Island on a rainy day, with circus-like, rhythmic riffs, even breaking into a waltz during the chorus. Legrand may even integrate social commentary into her elusive lyrics: “Bury your maps/they’ll find all your pots and pans/cross all your hands/one finger at a time/you’ll be found in a land of savages.”

This reviewer’s favorite track is hands down the cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Some Things Last a Long Time.” It’s everything a cover ought to be – a newer band with a unique, engaging sound playing an already good song with their own flavor. It’s an allusion, a nod of approval, and an elaboration with respect towards the original artist. The song is as longing and tragic as it would be through Johnston’s recording, but it leads a whole new life through slide guitars and tambourines.

All in all, “Devotion” is well worth your time, especially if you liked Beach House’s first release. If you’re over 21, they’ll be playing the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis on March 25, so check them out.