BY JEFF ELBEL | FOR THE SUN-TIMES
Dream-pop champions Beach House return to Chicago following a busy year. Although the Baltimore-based duo hasn’t performed in Chicago since 2013’s Lollapalooza festival, it spent much of last year in North America and Europe supporting two 2015 album releases. The band’s fifth album “Depression Cherry” arrived in August, followed shortly by sixth album “Thank Your Lucky Stars.”
Elegant and spacious tracks like “Myth” from 2012’s “Bloom” reveal a debt to Scottish alternative pop groundbreakers Cocteau Twins. Alex Scally’s ringing guitar chords are enveloped in swirling clouds of chorus, reverb and delay. Victoria Legrand’s evocative lyrics are far more discernible than those of Elisabeth Fraser’s beautiful but inscrutable fare. Still, the French-born Legrand shares Fraser’s ability to transmit captivating emotion with agile and unforced melody.
The triplet rhythm of “Bloom” tracks like “Wild” combined with Legrand’s synthesizer textures to recall adventurous 80s singles like Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” For more recent songs like “Levitation,” the rhythm section is minimized in favor of parlor organ percussion and more ambient atmospheres.
The change was deliberate. “With the growing success of ‘Teen Dream’ and ‘Bloom,’ the larger stages and bigger rooms naturally drove us towards a louder, more aggressive place; a place farther from our natural tendencies,” wrote Legrand in an official statement.
The sonic mood augments the impressionistic romance of Legrand’s lyrics. “It’s a gift, taken from the lips,” she sings on the beguiling “Sparks.” Scally’s slide guitar slides woozily during “PPP” while Legrand sings of unexpected beauty.
Legrand and Scally go the extra mile to maintain an intimate relationship between their audience and their music. Fans visiting the tour calendar at the Beach House website can access an interactive tool for voting favorites into the evening’s set list. A list of 47 song options represents all six Beach House albums to date.
SPOTIFY playlist: http://bit.ly/BHspot
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.