Beach House: Devotion

Beach House's self-titled debut drew a million comparisons to Mazzy Star and Galaxie 500, but there's little of those bands' psychedelic pulse or folk-like grace on the duo's new Devotion. Instead, the disc is even drier and more rigid than its predecessor. Singer-organist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally have almost exactly reproduced the sultry tones and lurching atmosphere of Beach House, but songs like "Wedding Bell" and "Turtle Island" magnify icier influences: Young Marble Giants' skeletal embrace, the self-consuming final half of Joy Division's Closer, and even Nico's scarifying albums with John Cale. When "Holy Dances" and "Home Again" open momentarily into warmer and brighter vistas, wisps of dread and dissonance curl around the edges.

At the core of the album's disorientating haze is Legrand's vaporized voice, a tricky tether that slips away as easily as it's grasped. The challenge is drawing something human from the album's metronomic sway—but haunted distance and hollow melancholy are the closest things to emotion the band has to offer. Luckily, that's more than enough; Devotion's half-submerged, half-weightless ambience feels like a shaky yet sure transition into something even more abstract and fragile.

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