Essential Album: Beach House – Depression Cherry review

By Anjali DasSarma

There is the potential for something uniquely devastating to be held within the thin ridges of a record – especially one so intertwined with the moments of a personal relationship. 

When I heard the album for the first time in my room my freshman year of college, I was immediately entranced, lying on my stomach, as the ringing intro of Levitation filled my ears. When Victoria Legrand’s strong voice came through, even through my tinny speakers, I was suddenly in another place. Unconsciously, I closed my eyes. Enveloped.

‘I’ll go anywhere you want to.’

It became the album that I held the closest, so when my boyfriend, Max, bought the record on vinyl, I held the velvety sleeve reverently. The LP has been passed back and forth between us over the past two and a half years, being played in our own rooms while we’ve been apart, and in our most loving moments when we’ve been together.

The best album sleeves, I’ve found, never stay in pristine condition. Depression Cherry – which has travelled miles between our homes, and moved in and out of apartments – has survived it all, but the velvet isn’t quite as lush as when we first held it in our hands. Somehow, though, it seems to me that every time I play the album, it gets better; it’s full of the kind of songs that age with you – carrying the memories of yesterday into tomorrow with encircling certainty.

Though the genius duo of Beach House is from Baltimore, a city only 30 minutes from my home, I was only a child as they rose to fame, so I missed the era of the tiny shows at my favourite record store – the Sound Garden in Fell’s Point. That didn’t stop me from gazing adoringly at the pictures of the two of them framed on the wall of the store though. So when Beach House came to Washington DC, we instantly got tickets to go. While we waited inside the crowded venue, I could feel my palms getting sweaty against the cold metal railing that would soon be the only thing to separate me from Victoria and Alex. When they appeared on stage, and began Levitation in person, the buzzing guitar underneath the ethereality of Victoria’s voice, I started crying.

The lights – which flickered in colours during the bridge, as Victoria stood solidly in a wide stance, powerful and cogent – married with Alex’s guitar, which flung open the curtain of dreamy sounds, with an intensity that was almost tangible.

Sparks’ intro, an overdriven fantasy, will never fail to remind me of those lengthy drives through the Pennsylvania countryside, the car slicing through the wheat-filled fields, my hand out the window, on cool and crisp fall evenings. The sky turns a deliciously thick purple, dotted with stars, as the tambourine intertwines with Victoria’s chanting and raspy tone.

In a world where things are never sure, in a world where I have been apart from my boyfriend for six months as a virus ravages the United States, I know I can be transported back to our deepest moments, staring at one another for who we really are, as the record spins; that certainty of hope fills my chest cavity like a rushing river.

Space Song, one of the most intricate and artful songs on the album, is a tearful understanding – ‘It was late at night, you held on tight / From an empty sea, a flash of light / It will take a while to make you smile / Somewhere in these eyes, I’m on your side.’ It is a lullaby to cry to – the understanding of naivete, of being pushed away, while persevering nonetheless. The songs of Depression Cherry will devour your sense of self, rendering you helpless to anything but the shadowy instrumentals and the clipping synthesiser. It’s a feeling I go back to, again and again.

It’s a reminder that there will always be a way to ‘fall back into place.’ There will always be a home for me in this record, swinging round and round again.

There is certainty in sadness. There is certainty in knowing that you are giving your full self to another, and it could leave you any day. Beyond Love encapsulates that knowing; the art of knowing, as Victoria describes the vision: ‘This man comes to me / Heartbreak did this / He was made to believe / That he should live without it.’

We all choose to risk that injury, to risk turning off the lights, risking finding out what happens Beyond Love, but Victoria explains that all she knows is what she sees. All we can see is what is in front of us at the time. The fear of loss cannot stop us from the present, else it will stop us from living.

Victoria taught me that when she asks, ‘Are you ready for this life?’ in PPP, that I needn’t say anything at all. Just take the world as it is, close my eyes, and trust.

As we all know, with great certitude: ‘it won’t last forever, or maybe it will.’

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