On their two 2015 albums “Depression Cherry” and “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” Baltimore-spawned duo Beach House had crafted their strain of dreampop to such perfection that it felt like there were few stones left to unturn. The duo felt that as well — they said of this album, “We wanted to rethink old methods and shed some self-imposed limitations” — and their seventh full-length represents less a change of style than of mood. While their impressionist synth haze and Victoria Legrand’s breathy vocals remain at the forefront, “7” is darker, cloudier, crankier and more turbulent than most of what they’ve done before.
It’s almost the inverse of the transformation that most musical artists try to make, which is to graft a new musical style or element onto their usual template in an effort to seem contemporary (has anyone not heard enough trap beats on pop songs yet?). The album starts off with the jarring drum roll and stormy chords of “Dark Spring”; the second track, “Pay No Mind,” is a languid acoustic rocker that’s almost reminiscent of Mazzy Star; “Lemon Glow” places a familiar Legrand singsong melody into an unusually ominous musical setting; “Drunk in L.A.” pairs a dense, cloudy arrangement with an almost Marlene Dietrich-style vocal and an accordionesque accompaniment on the chorus. Later in the album, “Lose Your Smile” and “Woo” tread more familiar ground, but the point has been made.
Listening to “7” is almost like spending time with a normally cheerful and sunny friend who’s angry at someone or something else: It’s a bit startling but not unpleasant or unwelcome, because it opens up another side to the person — and proves that they can still surprise you.