Photo Credit: David Belisle
Perhaps Beach House decided to roll out their latest LP Once Twice Melody in four separate chapters to gradually acquaint listeners with its sprawling length. Clocking in at a little over 84 minutes in length, it’s the band’s longest album by a noticeable margin. The dream-pop innovators did not need to worry, however. Once Twice Melody is the most amiable hour-and-a-half of music you’re likely to come across this year. Utilizing a gorgeous array of strings and tactfully employing many production flourishes, Once Twice Melody channels the band’s obvious sources of inspiration (chiefly Mazzy Star) while offering something distinctly and unmistakably their own.
As ever, Beach House’s new LP prioritizes the lusciousness of its soundscape over all else – these are songs to get lost in, not necessarily songs meant to be closely analyzed. Yet Once Twice Melody’s best moments occur when it finds lyrics that channel the same ecstasy as its dreamy sonic pallet does. “Superstar” is the album’s obvious highlight; a bittersweet 6-minute number that compares a past relationship to a dying star. “When you were mine // We fell across the sky // Backlit up against the wall // Out there on the run // You’re not the only one,” our narrator reminisces, before later concluding “Now you’re gone.” Despite depicting a tale that culminated in tragedy, the song never gives in to the heaviness of its reality – be glad for the beauty that existed rather than being sad it is over, is the message.
Elsewhere the duo opt-out of this style of poetic writing in favor of short, sharp turns of phrase that capture a swath of emotions in just a few words. “Last night, I’m messing up // Now I feel like dressing up,” they sing on “New Romance”, capturing the essence of youthful exuberance – of falling hard and fast, recovering quickly, and going out and making all the same mistakes the next night.
Despite both of Beach House’s members being in, or near, 40-years-old, Once Twice Melody is an album enamored with the allure of young – even juvenile – love. Perhaps this album couldn’t have been made without having writers removed from this reality. Once Twice Melody’s tales of adolescent love read almost as fantasies – or at least as the titled misremembrances of someone viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses. Much of the album’s lyrics display a charming youthful naivete; a lover is compared to a “halo” on “Over and Over”, the past was a “fairytale” according to “Pink Funeral.”
Elsewhere, however, a dark underbelly is revealed to exist within Once Twice Melody. “Here tonight, then gone forever” goes one line on “Masquerade”, “I stand before the ending” we’re told on “Modern Love Stories.” Then, “The Bells” gives way to a fantastic set of lines that are at once alarming, assuring, sweet and unsettling: “I’ll be the last one at the bar //…Think the plane is going down // You can’t take it with you // So let me buy you the next round”. As much as its lovesick lyrics and transcendent sonics suggest otherwise, Once Twice Melody is fundamentally the sound of two people facing down the apocalypse.
As I was writing this review, I was trying to think of what those four lines from “The Bells” reminded me of and I realized it was the final scene of Netflix’s Don’t Look Up, where (spoiler alert) the scientists tasked with saving the world realize it is too late and enjoy a dinner with family and friends as the world’s end dawns ever closer. Similarly, the songs of Once Twice Melody are about finding joy from love in a world where reasons to feel joyous feel few and far between. It’s a twisted dreamscape of an album – but, if the end is indeed near, at least it gets to sound this fantastic.