Devotion’s the perfect name for Beach House’s sophomore album. The 11-song collection has a reverence, a dream-y flow that never drifts or shifts its volume or tone, like Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand are afraid too much noise will break-up the birthday seance they have going on the album cover, maybe knock over the candelabra. We’ve made no secret about how much we love this album in previous posts about “Gila” and “Heart Of Chambers.” Sonically, you can think of “Gila” as representative of the whole album, but actually talking about it in its entirety’s important and entirely different: Devotion is basically one big tapestry of hushed melodies and nighttime instrumentation (and we’re not just talking about the wind-chiming bells that flow between “Astronaut” and “D.A.R.L.I.N.G.”). Severing a bit of that takes away from the cumulative effect.
Although autumn comes to mind, it’s not necessarily seasonal music; more, this is for those hazy hours of half-sleep that the National sing about in “Fake Empire,” wandering a city with your diamond slippers on, drinks in your flask and on your breath. It’s fitting that Victoria finally intones “devotion” over and and over in “All These Years,” as if pointing at the perennial nature of the thing. Hard to call something a classic at such close range, so we won’t, but this feels like the kind of album that gets even better when it’s well-worn.
When we first saw Beach House at CMJ ’06, the late-night Cake Shop reminded us of a hunting lodge, tiny falling stars just outside the roof. The two transformed the place. We were obviously fans of the band’s eponymous debut, but Devotion’s better, and at first, frankly, we were suprised. The Baltimore twosome have upped their game exponentially: Like at this point, they’d rip the roof of the place, make the stars come to us. To put it less dramatically, you can’t fall back on Mazzy Star or Galaxie 500 references because they’ve pushed themselves into their own, unique solar system. Victoria’s voice and woozy after-hours organ tones are more assured, Alex has lost the beard but gained more inventive, atmospheric guitar lines. For just one instance, listen to “You Came To Me,” the way each part of it builds. We don’t think they could’ve wrote that song a year ago. Throughout Devotion, they’ve pushed their template in all the right directions. They haven’t changed … it’s more that they’ve deepened.
You can think of these songs as “Holy Dances,” which is what they sound like. About the only bad thing we can say is that we like Built To Spill’s cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Some Things Last a Long Time” a little bit more. But that’s because we’ve been around it so much longer. And, like the song says, certain things do last a long time. Please put us down on record as saying Devotion will be one of those things.
Beach House – “Gila” (MP3)
Devotion is out 2/26 on Carpark.