Music Reviews
Once Twice Melody

Beach House Once Twice Melody

(Sub Pop) Rating - 8/10

The hazy shade of winter brings us Beach House’s most ambitious release to date in Once Twice Melody. Released in chapters from November to February, there has been ample time to parse through the bulk of the album that spans 18 tracks and is nearly 90 minutes in length. Strewn with images of mysterious women adorned with diamonds, lace, and sugared eyelids, the album takes a step away from the narrative of the prior album, 7. Once Twice Melody instead thrives on a pushing forward and pulling back of the duo’s stylistic boundaries, while maintaining the unmistakable stamp that Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have long claimed for their own.

Though the album maintains the futuristic drive of an interplanetary journey, there are also ample touches of earlier era musical nostalgia laying about to go along with the retro storybook cover art. The most jarring, but also loveliest, juxtaposition of Beach House’s trajectory to date arrives on the wash of strings and acoustic strum of centerpiece Sunset. Simple chords that lie somewhere in between Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ and praise and worship music give way to the duo’s summery glow interspersed with the subtlest of garbled tape loops.

The album’s final chapter also reveals its most throwback moments. Finale skates on the edges of bubblegum pop, while Hurts to Love migrates from Cat Steven’s folkiness to the disco ball iciness of ABBA’s biggest hits. The ironically titled closer Modern Love Stories concludes in chunky acoustic chords reminiscent of David Bowie’s own starstruck era.

But not all on Once Twice Melody is given over to looking back. Two of the album’s longest tracks also prove some of the best and most accomplished here. The driving rhythm and layered unfolding of Superstar make for an early album and career highlight, only surprising in that they haven’t used the song title before. While Over and Over, with its choral overlay and fidgety build, makes for an equally fine moment.

Weaving in dustier threads to Beach House’s ever shimmery fabric proves that the cyborgian approach of mixing the organic with the mechanical is an increasingly winning formula. Not to make too much of Beach House’s reclamation of the sounds that marked the heyday of the earlier days of the space race for the innocents and the dreamers, but today such pursuits are given over to megalomaniacal billionaires. Legrand and Scally are here, phasers in hand, to take it back in grand style to the day when, as they succinctly put it on Illusion of Forever, “Sailing to the stars, I wonder why it’s so hard.”