Beach House’s hypnotic ‘Once Twice Melody’ captures love, longing

album art for Beach House
Sub Pop Records/Courtesy

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Grade: 4.5/5.0

Since 2006, the duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, better known as Beach House, has remained a mainstay in the indie scene for effortlessly cool synths and mysteriously monotonous vocals. In past projects, the duo delicately captured feelings of love and loss, and the group’s latest record Once Twice Melody rediscovers the flux of experiencing both thorny yet beautiful feelings all at once. It’s some of their best work yet, with the album enchanting the listener through a story of going in and out of love — all while encapsulating the naive optimism and inconsolable yearning that comes with it.

Dizzyingly enchanting, the duo refines its classic carefree sound in all unskippable 18 tracks. The record carries fleeting feelings of sanguinity, nostalgia and adoration that juxtaposes its ominous and disorienting beats and poignant lyricism: It makes for an utterly enthralling listen.

The self-titled track kicks off the album, beginning with a glittery harp engulfed in a positive beat that later meets Legrand’s low, sedative vocals. To fully experience the gravity of the duo’s music requires a careful listen, with tracks often pulling listeners in with hushed vocals. But from the first track on Once Twice Melody, the duo shifts its signature pattern; sounding more hypnotic than ever before, Legrand switches between her clear and muffled pitch that presents a balanced push and pull.

It would be easy to criticize Beach House for its signature soft delivery. On the duo’s earlier records, tracks often begin to melt into one another until becoming a mush of the same rhythm and sound; Once Twice Melody, however, recognizes and avoids this issue entirely. Each track offers the slightest change in sound, while still cleanly building off the foundation from the previous song. This makes perfect sense regarding the album’s unique, well-thought-out organization; the duo splits Once Twice Melody into four chapters, where each “chapter” corresponds to a matching visual posted to the duo’s YouTube channel.

Tracks such as “ESP” illustrate the duo’s growth from past works. In reverse catharsis, the track plays as though it’s going from back to front. On a slower beat, Legrand sings, “You caught me looking over/ Tears were in your eyes/ What cuts you makes you bolder/ Could you read my mind?” The song runs for about two minutes, long enough to mimic a tedious lullaby against an acoustic guitar and circular synths. Coming to its close, “ESP” is destructive: It reminds the listener of their own presence against the world while simultaneously engulfing them in a moment of comforting bewilderment.

Oftentimes, Legrand’s conviction when singing about heartbreak and desire feels like an older sister giving prophetic advice. The duo has a way with writing about love in a way that reconciles it from the past while still being grounded in the present. Impeccably bittersweet, “New Romance” characterizes this tension especially well with its heartbreaking lyric “Night after night, we say our goodbyes/ My love drips in red out of my mind at the edge of the sky.” The track details saying farewell to a still beloved relationship all while knowing there is something better. Production-wise, it mirrors this ache with a solemn beat and snippets of a high synth that’s piercing enough to induce chills. Painfully relatable in the best way, the song reminds listeners of the subtly comforting universality of too-often-found devastation.

Beach House also allows for peaceful interludes, occasionally gravitating away from its usual striking synths. “The Bells” is one of the album’s sweeter tracks, featuring a slower pace while dominated by acoustic guitar with a vintage twang. The track is the type of song one would send to a loved one to say it’s reminiscent of them — it’s that exceptional. Similar in composition is “Sunset,” which has similar bold acoustics and calm cadence.

Nevertheless, Once Twice Melody is ultimately chilling, and it sounds as though Scally and Legrand are finally stepping into their own well-deserved spotlight. The album brilliantly evokes Beach House’s attitude of fleeting invincibility, passing courage to the listener as they weave through powerful ballads and lyricism. All 18 tracks on Once Twice Melody mimic that of an epic love story, making for a truly mesmerizing album.

Contact Kaitlin Clapinski at [email protected].