Like much of their work, Beach House’s success has been a slow build. The Baltimore duo’s aptly titled seventh album 7 (★★★★★) is the culmination of years of precisely refining their technique, doubling down again and again on a now unmistakable sound and aesthetic and striving to perfect it.
Perfection, or at least the pursuit of it, with the knowledge that it is unattainable in practical terms. Scally pointed out in an interview with Pitchfork that, for example, the album’s 11 tracks bring their catalogue up to 77 songs. There is apparently more numerology at play for the observant or truly obsessive to discover, but suffice to say, 7 is an important number. Considered alongside Beach House’s mystic leanings and the album’s themes of regeneration, rebirth, perfection in simplicity, all this pre-release referencing of the divine numeral in the western tradition begins to make a sort of sense, acting as a way-point from which the album can be understood.
There is some noticeable difference in Beach House’s sound on 7, likely owing in part to the duo’s split from long-time producer Chris Coady. All the elements that define them are still present. The synths, soft guitars, and Victoria Legrand’s haunting voice make it impossible to mistake this for anything other than Beach House. As 7 unfolds in its characteristically easy yet deliberate way, it becomes clear that it is more dynamic, taking us through more emotions than past albums. The album begins on a light, unimposing note, anchored by the lead single “Lemon Glow.” It gradually deepens into more morose and cerebral territory with “Drunk in LA,” then finally rising up again into something more hopeful by “Girl of the Year.”
A response to anxieties and fears of the modern age, 7 is more grounded in the material world than much of what we have come to expect from Beach House. While it is an intelligent and purposeful meditation on the present state of the world, the album strikes a hopeful note, asking and then answering the questions, where are we, and where do we go from here? Beach House’s soundscapes have always been dreamy, escapist fantasies, but with this album they have put forth a hopeful message of rebirth, a simple perfection rising out of darkness and chaos.
7 is available to buy now from Amazon.com and on iTunes, and is available on streaming services.