Beach House craft songs like cloudy sapphires: glittering on their surfaces, with a blue, murky power underneath. Over six albums, the Baltimore duo have distilled their sound into an exact dream-pop formula, leaving room for their devoted fans to project their own hopes onto their songs. Their fifth LP, this August’s Depression Cherry, demanded several listens before its somber tones became clear. Now, just two months later, they’ve surprised the world with an entirely new LP that goes deeper than ever into their ongoing fascination with yearning emotion.
Victoria Legrand’s romantic, velvety vocals have always been Beach House’s defining feature, dancing and gliding over guitarist Alex Scally’s moody arpeggios. Her singing on Thank Your Lucky Stars feels more playful than usual, a welcome lightness that comes across from the first moments of “Majorette,” the album’s opener and one of the most free-sounding pop songs they’ve ever written. The temptation to view this album as a sequel to Depression Cherry is strong, but the two albums stand apart: Where the earlier album reveled in the bittersweet implications of its title with lush, layered arrangements, Stars is a purer vision of the realities of love, balancing the rush of romance with the burdens that can come along with it.
The album’s crown jewel, “Elegy to the Void,” feels tempestuous and trancelike at the same time. Legrand’s droning keyboard part changes little over the song’s six and a half minutes, twisting and turning through strange harmonies on its way to a resolution that never quite comes — as good a summation as any of what Beach House does best. “She’s So Lovely,” another highlight, is a pained tribute to a mysterious beauty: “From the way that her eyes are shaped/And it’s making me sick/With her head on my shoulder,” Legrand sings, tinging her words with an uneasy undercurrent that echoes in one deliberately dissonant keyboard note.
Thank Your Lucky Stars feels like an opportunity for Beach House to sum up and celebrate the ways they’ve matured since their self-titled 2006 debut. At times, their formula can shade into self-imitation: “Common Girl” is a pale shadow of “On the Sea,” from 2012’s Bloom, going so far as to use nearly the same lovesick keyboard intro. But that’s a minor misstep for a band as remarkably consistent as Beach House. Like all their albums, this one is full of songs made for dreaming of a bygone love, or humming quietly to a new one.