Beach House’s very first non-album single, released in the wake of Devotion in 2008, with the “Apple Orchard” demo on the flip, was a scruffy early take on “Used to Be,” a song that eventually appeared in finished, thrilling form on 2010’s Teen Dream. The single version recalled their previous music while hinting at the towering run to come, asking, “Are you not the same as you used to be?” The band’s new Become EP doesn’t pull the same trick, and in fairness Beach House said it wouldn’t. “It’s not really where we are currently going, but it’s definitely somewhere we have been,” they’ve written. Become, originally released for Record Store Day, consists of five songs that Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally didn’t think fit on their most recent album, 2022’s Once Twice Melody. Don’t expect anything radically different, though.
Become is sumptuous and starry enough to play alongside Once Twice Melody without dampening the mood; creating a playlist with these songs tacked on at the end makes for a fine DIY deluxe edition. Its shortcomings also shine a light on the merits of the 18 tracks that ultimately did make it onto the album. Once Twice Melody was distinguished by its double-disc sprawl, its festival-headliner sheen, and, here and there, some uncharacteristically clunky lyrics. Become keeps some of that sparkle but also the occasional awkwardness. It’s pleasant but still feels like an afterthought.
The strengths and weaknesses are most apparent on “Devil’s Pool.” The tinny, Casio-style beats draped with velvety organ will provoke visceral sense memories in longtime listeners. Add Legrand’s breathy purr, Scally’s Twin Peaks guitar twinkles, and a smattering of live percussion, and Beach House are in their ethereal, slow-motion comfort zone. A curious, cicada-like buzzing adds a little variety, and the song’s reassurances to a loved one who’s medicated beyond reach have some promise. But rhyming “in a devil’s pool” with “you don’t know the rules” and “you’re just somebody’s fool” is rote and distracts from the dreaminess.
The other four songs on the EP also have the feel of second-tier material from a first-tier group. With crystalline guitar arpeggios and a propulsive rhythm section, “American Daughter” is cut from the same stadium-size cloth as Once Twice Melody, more School of Seven Bells than Mazzy Star, but “to know her is to love her” is an old cliché—and a reverie about an American daughter is anticlimactic in the year of Lana Del Rey’s “American whore.” The floaty synths and airy, wordless refrains of “Holiday House” achieve the expected Beach House mood, but it’s easy to see why a song that mentions a “sweet little runaway” might’ve been out of place on an album that already has a song called “Runaway.” The title track is more of the same: their characteristic thrum and smolder with lyrics that feel like placeholders, plus a bit of “Fake Plastic Trees” in the strummed guitar.
From a band that continues to give new meaning to “always different, always the same,” more of the same is not always unwelcome. If you’re unfamiliar, Become might even be a decent place to start, but like much else in Beach House’s deep catalog of odds and ends, it’s a reminder that the band’s spellbinding studio albums are not so effortless as they may sound.
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