Beach House

Thrilled with anticipation for the new full-length release by one of the most distinctive and innovative American bands in years. Beach House will bring us Depression Cherry, their fifth LP, releasing 28 August 2015 on Sub Pop.

alex scally and victoria legrand - BEACH HOUSE
alex scally and victoria legrand – BEACH HOUSE

Here is the single and the welcome return of the ravishing voice of Queen Victoria:

Sparks by Beach House.

The song has a pervasive disorienting vibe thrown out from Victoria Legrand’s discordant, simple, and raspy keyboard line – but the song patiently finds a resolute balance and deepened beauty. I love the bravery of amassing so many ideas in one song – and Beach House is among very few acts that are able to actually succeed in wrangling such a variety of ideas – perhaps unbeautiful on their own – into a piece of cogent prettiness.

Sparks brings to mind the invigoration of swimming – or even just being around water. Immersion in water necessarily dulls some senses to allow others to sharpen – think of the bewildering shock and chill of jumping in a cold stream and how intensely the sensations of skin pick it all up – and yet the eyes or ears are unfocussed and a-whooshing.

Happy around water, some of my favorite memories include ponds, lakes, pools, and especially rivers and oceans. I have written in this space about spending entire summers delightedly floating in and exploring the Platte River. Pine Creek is perhaps among the happiest two or three places on earth. Big big love of the Oregon coast and its access to the magnificent Pacific is also documented here in a recent piece called


But water … not so happy for everyone. My mother has been afraid of water most of her life.

She has lots of fears, bless her. Her comfort zone is the size of – well, imagine a little mouse. The mouse has a wee little pen and is writing a letter – a tiny little letter that is going to be sent in a tiny envelope. Imagine our little mouse placing his teensy postage stamp on his tiny envelope. My mother’s comfort zone fits within the stamp’s borders.

Like many of her life tales, the story about the genesis of her terror of water follows a typical path – it begins idyllically and ends fearfully; and it contains common elements – there is family involved, someone unintentionally lets her down; she is affected/tortured by the incident for life.

Her story takes place at Pier Park in Grand Island, Nebraska. There is a lake that occupies several acres on the north end of the park. Ornamental now, it was long ago a recreational swimming pond for the city. It was the mid-1930s, Mom was seven or so, and on a sunny summer day she walked happily to the crowded lake with her outgoing older brother, Lyman, and sister, LaVina – both a bit older, both much beloved. Mom’s voice often catches with pride when talking about her own mom, her dad, and her brother and sister.

At the lake, Mom would mostly stay where she could wade – and could only be persuaded into the pond as long as her brother would stay close by. She would even jump in the deeper area from the banks if Lyman would be there in the water to catch her. And he always was, until one time he got distracted by some friends, and he wasn’t. The episode resolved itself with everyone safely accounted for, and physically unharmed – though some were very much more shaken than others. My mother exited the pond for the day, and she also exited a lifetime of enjoying water.

I think it may have been one of the early stories that she told my dad about herself, and she tells that story still, some eighty years since it happened, with the same unambiguous shudder that she displayed the first time I heard it as a little boy.

Mom and Dad around 1950.
Mom and Dad around 1950.

This story has many companion tales. And as I mentioned – they follow a certain set of rules that, when pieced together, help to explain why my mom is the way she is. Cautious.

Whenever she was around, I heard, “Be careful!” roughly as often as I heard my own name. This had some upside – I am sure that I eschewed doing a lot of stupid things throughout my life that would have got me in some real trouble. It had some downside, too – as I am equally certain that I did not do a lot of stupid things throughout my life that would have been very fun.

But water. Man, I love it, and I am sorry that my mom could not. Pier Park was the site of hundreds of happy hours for me as a kid where the city had put together a complex that included a municipal swimming pool next to the lake where my mother took her last splashing leap.

Lucky me – I get to go back to the Oregon coast to spend a week before this summer ends and I am so ready for a dose of the ocean. Like seasons, vacations sometimes crave a soundtrack. To celebrate the water and the summer, here’s a start:

a rocker:

Ocean Size by Jane’s Addiction from Nothing’s Shocking (1988 Warner Bros Records).

a quiet one:

The Ocean by U2 from Boy (1980 Island Records).

a rocker:

Houses of the Holy
Houses of the Holy

The Ocean by Led Zeppelin from Houses of the Holy (1973 Atlantic).

and this one:

Summer by War from Greatest Hits (1976 United Artists Records).

31 july 2015

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