Welcome to Formative Jukebox, a column exploring the personal relationships people have with music. Every week, a writer will tackle a song, album, show, or musical artist and their influence on our lives. Tune in every week for a brand new essay.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a penchant for daydreaming. I get wildly lost in my mind, suddenly completely oblivious to space and time. My high school cross country teammates used to lovingly poke fun at the way I would gaze out my bus window on the way to big meets, an expression of yearning and fear plastered on my cherubic face as I quietly listened to my iPod. While they giggled at what they perceived to be overwrought performance anxiety, I was secretly painting elaborate pictures of who I wanted to be in the form of music videos in my mind.
Daydreams became a way to escape my insecurities, because in them I could do anything — I could tell my crush I liked him, I could grow a foot taller, I could run the fastest time in high school cross country history.
When I discovered Beach House in college, it was like I finally found a soundtrack to complement my whimsical thoughts. It was hard not to get lost in the effervescent synth beats coming from the dynamic duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. I’d spend hours listening to their organ-laden songs of heartache and loss, of desire and aspiration, as I thought about how they fit into my own increasingly complicated life. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before and yet so achingly familiar.
What makes Beach House so unique is that their music is almost impossible to articulate. I can never seem to pinpoint a way to convey the band to others. Legrand and Scally encounter similar difficulties discussing their work, as they explain in a recent interview with Pitchfork: “When you try to describe your creative moments, you veer off into a very unintelligible place of nonsense. Because describing a moment of creativity is impossible.” Creativity, like life, is messy and nonsensical. It’s through that chaos that beautiful things are derived.
There’s something about strong leading ladies with booming, ethereal voices that is so alluring and empowering. From Florence Welch and Lana Del Rey, to Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell before them, these women assert their boldness to the world, showcasing at the same time their vast vulnerabilities. I listen to them when I want to feel understood. Listening to Legrand is like sitting and drinking tea with an old friend as we console each other about our troubles.
Beach House helped sooth me as I waded uncertainly into adulthood, and it’s safe to say I probably wouldn’t have survived the end of college without them. Brimming with unease about my pending graduation, the band helped lead me back to the land of daydreams, a place where I could envision myself completing finals and finding a job, and then ultimately make those dreams a reality.
As the jarring experience of being thrust into the “real world” weighed upon me, nostalgia began to cloud my conscious. The song “Used To Be,” off of their album Teen Dream, scored my wistfulness for foregone times.
It got me through the confusing, at times soul-crushing, first year after college in which nothing feels right. The contemplative quality of this song is particularly conducive to moments of reflective daydreaming: “Don’t forget the nights / When it all felt right / Are you not the same as you used to be?” I wasn’t the same as I used to be; none of us ever are. Listening to this song made me realize while life may be forever altered, there was still a sense of hope that better times were forthcoming.
Then came the inevitable loneliness. On my own in a new city in my first job, I yearned for the days when my friends all lived down the street from me. I thought about the boys I once pined for and the heartache that ensued. These moments often called for the good old fashioned reverie and mourning of “Silver Soul.”
As former entanglements and crushes floundered, I found myself listening to this song as if burrowing myself in a comfortable blanket. It’s like Legrand knows how much it hurts, and doesn’t understand how on earth it could be happening again, her repeated lyric haunting in both its vagueness and complexity. What exactly is happening again? It could be anything, but she gets it and dammit, she will make it better.
As I move toward making decisions about my future, I listen to “Wishes” as I look inward to determine my true “wishes” and if they’re “even real.”
Something about the lyric “One in your life / It happens once and rarely twice” makes me feel like it’s now or never. Time to take the plunge. Or, at the very least, construct an illusion in my mind of what it would be like to leap headfirst into unchartered waters.
In October, Beach House announced a surprise follow up album to the August release of Depression Cherry. In a world where Beyoncé drops secret albums to her adoring masses, this was an indie rock lover’s dream. Sitting at my desk at work, I streamed the early releases from Thank Your Lucky Stars and felt soothed by the way Legrand always manages to calm my frayed nerves — tactful instrumentation drowning out my worries, providing comfort and taking me to that distant, daydreamy place.
These days, life moves so fast that I don’t always take a moment to stop and reflect on where I am and how far I’ve come. But when I do, Beach House fills the strange minutia of my mind with mirages of hope and well-being and gives me the courage to translate them to my real life.
(Image via Beach House/Facebook)