EP Review: Once Twice Melody: Chapter One // Beach House

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Beach House’s Once Twice Melody: Chapter One is their first release since 2018, marking the first chapter of their latest album. In the three years since their last record 7, Beach House have gone from indie darlings to TikTok superstars. While the recent explosion in popularity of other artists such as Mitski and Phoebe Bridgers can be attributed to the relatability of their music, Beach House’s appeal is more nuanced.

Their music imagines lush, warm textures, simultaneously intimate yet cosmic, evoking powerful emotions and creating the effect of romantic nostalgia. Instead of relatability, Beach House’s music aims for a 21st century reimagining of dream pop that perhaps elevates their resonance with a generation of TikTokers desperate for escapism.

Their viral TikTok hit, ‘Space Song’, typifies Beach House’s music, a dreamland that “fall[s] back into place”; they have previously been criticised for the lack of evolution in their music, yet their sound has grown, quite literally. The lo-fi haze of their first two albums made way for the swirling shoegaze of 7, leaving the simplicity of ‘Space Song’ behind, and Once Twice Melody promises to be even more expansive.

Once Twice Melody: Chapter One is more like their last two albums, Thank Your Lucky Stars and 7, than any of their previous work, forgoing soothing introspection for thrilling cinema. ‘Superstar’ and ‘Through Me’ are both six-minute epics that explode into waves of psychedelia, while the title track and the Swan Lake-retelling of ‘Pink Funeral’ are unique in their discography for their chamber-folk influence. With the aesthetic of the album art and song titles, the Carpenters comparisons are almost unavoidable. Like the Carpenters’ ‘Superstar’, Victoria Legrand’s lyrics mix rich imagery with melancholy, the titular superstar always out of reach, “shining far”. Very few bands have remained as consistent as Beach House over the course of their career without needing to subvert expectations, and their latest EP ticks all the boxes: sad, sexy, and seasonal.

For long-time fans of the band, the new songs unfortunately lack the autumnal childlike purity of Beach House and Devotion. As Beach House have added more instruments to their palette (the latest being acoustic guitars and violins), they have left a charming fragility behind. Though the songs on Once Twice Melody are so far their most diverse, the record seems to rejoice in excess with its sonic depth and 18-track length, and there are no guarantees of a return to the less is more approach that made songs like ‘Saltwater’ so heart-wrenching. Once Twice Melody: Chapter One solidifies a new exciting, epic era of Beach House, one that began with 7.

Two further chapters will be released in the coming months, before the full album is released on 18th February 2022. Beach House have thrived on brevity and minimalism in the past, and the release of Once Twice Melody in chapters is surprising. The release of albums as chapters has become popular in recent years, breaking albums into easily digestible EPs while maintaining an artist’s relevancy and streaming numbers. While controversial for its evisceration of the album format, it will be interesting to contrast how this strategy works for Beach House with Big Thief, who have also announced the release of a double album on the same day (Big Thief have opted to release monthly singles instead). In an era where pop stars are releasing increasingly longer albums, one has to wonder, what is the future of the (double) album?

Words by Stephen Ong


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