Beach House released two albums within months of each other this year, then played two London gigs packed with new material this weekend. The Baltimore duo are now popular enough that they could have done one bigger concert instead, at Brixton Academy say, but seem content to limit their ambitions and forego the need to dominate larger rooms.
For theirs is a sound that drifts pleasantly but rarely grabs hold, sweet and sad as the title of this year’s first album, Depression Cherry, implies. It was loud enough and pretty enough to suit a venue which singer Victoria Legrand, in one of her more coherent pieces of banter, described as looking like “Marie Antionette’s hair”.
She sang blurrily and played keyboards centre stage, just a nose peeping out from between two long flanks of hair. Guitarist Alex Scally kept his gaze on the floor as his feet danced between effects pedals, and touring rhythm section Skyler Skjelset and Graham Hill remained in the shadows. The music did not demand an energetic performance, maintaining a steady, barely altering pace between the glistening keyboard pulse of Levitation and the slowly unfurling chorus of Walk in the Park.
A couple of newer songs fiddled with the formula. Legrand switched to guitar for the hypnotic electric groove of One Thing, and the hazy sounds acquired some real weight when the burning guitar line of Sparks arrived.
Having begun the show in almost total darkness, with just a floor-height line of bulbs behind them for illumination, eventually a starry backdrop appeared. The light show was almost as static as the band, however. They would have benefited from a more adventurous set-up to make this a real show rather than a game of musical statues.
This year’s second Beach House album, Thank Your Lucky Stars, appeared without warning last month. Songs such as All Your Yeahs, aired here, made it an especially nice surprise. Attempting to explain its unannounced arrival, the band said: “Something about the record made us want to release it without the normal ‘campaign’. We wanted it to simply enter the world and exist.” As with this show, it didn’t demand attention, but it was still easy to be grateful for its existence.