Describing an album as “vibe-y” often has purely positive connotations. However, those of us who have devoured too many Allison cupcakes in one sitting can attest that too much of a good thing can be a path to nausea. This problem is precisely what I see in Beach House’s longest album yet, Once Twice Melody.
With 18 tracks and a staggering hour and 24-minute runtime, Once Twice Melody covers a lot of ground. No matter where you are, turning on Once Twice Melody absorbs you wholly – dissolving you into Beach House’s spacey melodies and angelic vocals. Deep lyrics pontificate on loss, love and the inevitable collision of the two. From “Pink Funeral,” “Once was a fairy tale / Then it all went to hell [...] Hearts that were made to break / Tears through a white lace veil.” All the while, you are zoning out to melodies and beats that no other artist could have made. Vocoders, synths and heavenly strings all meld together into an experience more like a drug trip than a musical album.
“Pink Funeral” is my favorite track from the album. Harsh strings battle against strong synths, giving way to lyrics with almost unbelievably heavy reverb. They all work together to create an experience that is unlike any other song I’ve ever heard. Then, the strings overtake the synth as the song blooms into a beautiful chorus. “Masquerade,” another of my favorites, is a much darker track. Heavy audio distortion on the lyrics creates a ghostly quality. It also stands out simply because it sounds so different from the other tracks on the album.
By the end of Once Twice Melody, the tracks had begun to blur together. This is especially pronounced in the midsection of the album, with the tracks “Only You Know,” “Over and Over” and “New Romance” probably being the most generic-sounding. This brings us back to the cupcake problem. The vibes are great, spot-on, marvelous. But as each track exemplifies the same vibey qualities, the album can become a little one-note towards the end. It’s a good note, but still just one. I can’t really remember the majority of the 18 tracks, which is usually a bad sign.
The marketing of the album was also a bit of a mixed bag. The lengthy double album was released in four “chapters” from Dec. 8, 2021, to the album release date of Feb. 18, 2022. This is an industry standard that many artists follow – but I question if this strategy may have harmed Once Twice Melody. I, for one, remember seeing mentions of the album on Tiktok in December, but gradually saw less and less hype. I felt excited about the album, but as the length between chapter drops increased, I forgot whether or not the album was out. On the final chapter release date of February 18, I genuinely thought the album had already been out and almost started my review.
Let’s look at some data from Google Trends (a journalist’s favorite pastime):
You can see several mini-peaks aligning with each chapter launch in the above Google Trends graph for Once Twice Melody. But each peak seems to have diminishing returns. And then, on the actual launch day, the search peak is less than it was for most other successful albums. As a counterpoint, here’s the launch of Mitski’s Laurel Hell – overlayed in red.
Mitski followed the typical promotion cycle of releasing a handful of singles before the album’s final release date of February 4, and her day one peak is significantly higher. Now, obviously, there are other factors as to why Laurel Hell is more popular than Once Twice Melody – general artist popularity is a big one – but I can’t help but think that trying to sustain hype for an album for nearly three months is a near-impossible task.
Overall, the album has great vibes and is an interesting and absorbing listen. But the repetitive nature of the nearly 20 tracks and a somewhat mixed marketing plan make this album less successful than it could be. My final rating of Once Twice Melody: two too many Allison cupcakes for one sitting.