“Once Twice Melody”: the technicolor route home

Album cover art for “Once Twice Melody” by Beach House designed by Jeff Kleinsmith, Baltimore, MA, Nov. 9, 2021. Photo from beaccchhoussse Intagram account.

4/5 stars

“Once Twice Melody” is the eighth studio album by dream-pop band Beach House, released across four months from Nov. 2021 to Feb. 2022. 

Home is where the heart is for the Baltimore-based dream-pop band. With the bohemian city serving as their artistic nucleus, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally — keyboardist/vocalist and guitarist respectively — have spent almost two decades creating, touring and dreaming. 

You can hear Baltimore’s influence prominently in their earlier works. I think of their first song as a duo, “Saltwater,” with its jittering oceanic synths; or rather, their sophomore album’s autumnal highlight “You Came to Me.” Even “Sparks” from their essential fifth album “Depression Cherry” touches on the city’s gentrification issues. 

Though, starting with their experimental 2018 work “7,” they broadened their horizons far beyond the Mid-Atlantic city. The album featured an icy intimacy not yet explored by Beach House, with cuts like “Dark Spring” and “Girl of the Year.” With many international tours under their belt, they seem to have gained new homes of inspiration elsewhere. Song titles like “Drunk in LA” and lyrical nods to Chelsea make that clear. 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic — practically a taboo amongst artists now — forced everyone, including Beach House, to go home and think — think about the unsure present, the seemingly forgotten past and the hazy future. What was home for Beach House? 

What came out of this meditation is the technicolor “Once Twice Melody,” an 18-track, four-chapter double album exploring the meaning of home. It was released in four parts on Nov. 10, 2021, Dec. 8, 2021, Jan. 19, 2022 and Feb. 18, 2022. 

Album cover art for “Once Twice Melody” by Beach House designed by Jeff Kleinsmith, Baltimore, MA, Nov. 9, 2021. Photo from beaccchhoussse Intagram account.

There’s a lot of movement on the record: the car rides of “The Bells” and “New Romance,” the days going by on the title track, and the fleeting “Runaway.” “The Bells” is a personal favorite: its sliding guitars and devotedly upfront lyrics never fail to make me smile. 

In contrast, there’s a lot of frozen moments: the Americana “Sunset,” the shoegaze “Only You Know” and the haunting “Masquerade” all capture scenes at a standstill. “Only You Know” features my favorite chorus on the album. The vocals glide on top of the densely packed guitars and pounding drums, propelling the listener into a trance.  

Repetition also plays a key role here. “Over and Over,” the centerpiece of the album, explores washes of synths, guitars and cyclical lyrics across its seven-minute runtime. “Another Go Around” details the end of a relationship in hopes of a new one via a transcendental waltz.  

“Illusion of Forever” combines cycles and stasis in a saturated, sensory assault: the sheer amount of reverb placed on each track is deafening. That doesn’t detract from its ever-relevant sentiment of hope in the face of failure: “And I can’t believe in nothing just yet.” 

What always rises above this unsure battle with time, however, is love. Not only is the track “Superstar” a clear highlight musically, it also shows the campy power of this passing relationship: “When you were mine / We fell across the sky.” With evocative imagery, throbbing electronics and a killer instrumental outro, “Superstar” summates everything that makes this album incredible. “Hurts to Love,” “Modern Love Stories” and the aforementioned “New Romance” highlight similar sentiments. 

There are a handful of moments that fall flat — mostly the underbaked “Finale.” The juvenile approach doesn’t hold a candle to the other tracks, but the guitar licks near the back end mostly make up for it. “Pink Funeral” and “ESP,” despite having incredibly unique compositions, fail to elicit much emotion for how poignant they are.  

That being said, “Once Twice Melody” proves to be a consistently dazzling listen. Beach House has created their most expansive and vibrant work yet, without leaving their home of Baltimore. 

I highly recommend “Once Twice Melody” for those of you who might be homesick returning to campus. I’m sure you’ll find something that takes you back, or maybe you’ll find somewhere new. There’s something for everyone here.