When Beach House’s Thank Your Lucky Stars - the band’s second record of 2015 - dropped, many fans thought it was a b-side compilation. Together with the track ‘She’s So Lovely’ and the pearls spelling out the title, it was a throwback to their debut. Other songs like ‘All Your Yeahs’ sounded distinctly like 2015 Beach House, focusing more on long buildups instead of the rhythmic payoffs like 2010’s Teen Dream.
Over time it became clear that this was not the case – that Lucky Stars was a separate work, and that an argument could be made for its being the superior 2015 Beach House album. ‘Majorette’ and ‘Elegy to the Void’ now seem indispensable, and the band proved that “inessential” isn’t a word in their vocabulary. Funnily, a lot of songs on the new B-Sides and Rarities seem to span the whole career of the band, just like Lucky Stars. Sadly, this is more a record for hardcore fans than casual ones, though there are some distinct highlights.
If you haven’t had the chance to hear the iTunes version of ‘Norway’, now is finally your chance. It’s better than the original, though it wouldn’t have fit in with the lucidity of Teen Dream. This version sees Scally’s guitar put through Mac DeMarco’s tape machine (not literally), and Legrand’s voice commands all the attention from the original with none of the yelling.
The finest track in this collection is ‘Saturn Song’. 2015 wasn’t very long ago, after all, and this song could have been tacked on to Depression Cherry. Nick Cave-like in its use of empty space, several guitar licks come in and out of the track for a triplet or two before being swallowed in a void of soft synths and vocals. It’s the sound of negative thoughts attempting to obscure the positive ones, but are then overcome with the beauty of infinity. Such are the feelings that come to mind when a Beach House record ends, and it’s sad the song hasn’t been around until now.
Apart from ‘I Don’t Care for the Winter Sun’ and the lo-fi ‘Rain in Numbers’, there are few other moments worth mentioning in terms of new material. Most of these tracks bear the same anxious builds and futuristic vibes of Depression Cherry, and few sound like the wintery Beach House we fell for in 2005. It checks out that we’re getting these songs during latter day, minimalist Beach House. Even the cover represents an entropy that’s also present on the album. It bears a striking resemblance to a handful of mid-career Swans records, but we’ll save that comparison for more substantive evidence.
’Winter Sun’ is an excellent song to have towards the end of the record. It’s the most similar to Devotion, and it puts winter in my mind just as effectively as those songs did in 2007. When it’s overcast and the snow is coming down, I will probably consider throwing on ‘Winter Sun’ as much as I do ‘Wedding Bell’. If B-Sides and Rarities were a proper studio album, ‘Winter Sun’ would remain a standout. It’s just a shame that more of these songs weren’t fleshed out before 2017. That said, when it’s Beach House, the bar is set pretty high, and there’s always a few flowers and gems hidden between anything that feels inessential.