Music at Mars Hill: Beach House and the Myth of Memory

Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.

Last week, I wrote about myths — specifically, the ones that Josh Tillman has created about life with his band Father John Misty. His are the desperate kind of myths that a person creates for himself once the meaningless pursuits of fame and rock ‘n’ roll fade. But there are plenty of other myths bands explore — for example, take the new record Bloom from dream pop band Beach House.

Unlike the grand facade of money and success that Tillman disposes of, Beach House happily dives into the warmth of the blissful myths we love to live in (or dream of living in). In the opening track “Myth,” frontwoman Victoria Legrand encourages a lover to help her stretch a moment of beauty into something that lasts a lifetime: “If you built yourself a myth, you’d know just what to give/What comes after this, momentary bliss/Help me to make it, Help me to make it.” But it’s really the shimmering guitars, swirling organs, and slathers of reverb that create the moment: Legrand just asks us to step into it.

But Beach House’s dreams of childlike love and naivety don’t always come through in the lyrics. In fact, as often as Legrand is wading in the pools of nostalgia and fuzzy summer memories, she is questioning how real they actually are. In “Wishes,” she thinks back at the memory of a loved one who has passed away and wonders out loud, “Is it even real?”

Because that’s the thing about our memories, isn’t it? Sometimes they can be blurry, biased, and unreliable — much like myths we’ve created. Events in the past are given meaning in our hindsight that bend toward the way we wish things would have happened. Even so, our memories of the past are often the very thing that informs the actions we take each day. How else could we learn from our mistakes? How else could we understand ourselves and the world around us?

Beach House’s album Bloom certainly calls us out on the irrationality of it all. But instead of abandoning the meaning we give to the past, Bloom encourages us to dig deeper into our memories and even find a sunny place to rest our heads. After four albums of pursuing this theme both musically and lyrically, it’s clear that Beach House wants us to find ourselves in the past — who we once were and even who we will become. After all, facts never changed anyone’s life. Only myth and metaphor have that power.

About Luke Larsen

Luke Larsen is a freelance writer, music lover, and indie game enthusiast hailing from the Great Northwest. His writing has been featured in publications such as Paste, RELEVANT, GameChurch, and Prefix. You can find him tweeting at @lalarsen11.

  • TK

    it’s interesting, because the first time i heard myth my impression was icarus, esp with “arrows falling from the sun” and “let the ashes fly”.. i’ve listened to bloom once so far, but definitely will have to listen to the whole thing a few more to better grasp ‘the irrationality, but necessity of memory’ you speak of.. with myth, it totally makes sense, though.. there is a longing ala Fleetwood Mac’s Sara with the “aahhs,” but Legrand points to something more than just nostalgia.. as though the cowbell opening is but the initial alarm buzz for what Legrand pleads later on: “help me to name it.” yes, we are an accumulation of times, spaces and experiences, but it’s a commitment, a responsibility, to those experiences that–through memory–can allow us to live on, in spite of the future, and move on, in spite of the past.. T.S. Eliot pretty much defined our loss of myth as the reason for our modern predicament, but personally i can relate in regards to love and relationships.. with myth, Legrand puts us within those few seconds, just before the sunset, where we are faced with a decision.. those simple, but big questions.. “what are we?” “is this love?” without the other to help name it, love is destined to only see the sun set, but not the sun rise.


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