Help Me to Name It: Beach House and Diarized Thoughts
by Meagan Fredette
A YouTube comment on the video for “Lazuli” caught my eye as I watched it for the first time. “This is the sound of a thousand sad childhoods.” It stuck with me so deeply because the image of many children softly sobbing in their homes or playgrounds or schools is quite familiar, except for me, I am still very much living it. Each crying child represents another moment I cannot win back or a hurt that is impossibly difficult to shake off. It becomes imprinted in my eyes, so that to look into them, you’ll see scars in the form of sinuous flourishes.
I often joke that I listen to Beach House records and cry at home. But it’s not a joke. Not even a little bit. Not at all. It’s a beloved Sunday ritual for me to listen to their records and purge my emotional balance remaining from the proceeding week. It’s a joyful moment for me, because I’ve come to terms with my battle scars as being part of my inherent essence. No one can take this from me. And Beach House’s cavernous melodies are my solace in melancholy, their lyrics give me a voice where I’ve felt too broken to speak. Dreary pop, they are. They’re summer rains and crisp autumn nights. Their music is a bouquet of desaturated amnesia roses, glittering with dewdrops and bound in spiderwebs; they paint the feeling of being hopelessly remote in an echoey place, so the only things you are can hear are your own sighs and thoughts.
“It is happening again” (“Silver Soul”, Teen Dream)- I feel my trauma wash over me a thousand more times before it settles like the gentlest broken waves. The bubbly kind, the kind that laps at your toes, muddled by sand and sediment, quieted by its roiling ride. “It is happening again” — There’s a resignation in Victoria Legrand’s voice that mirrors my own. Her words crack a little bit when she sings them. Is she singing of pain that is caused by the forces beyond her control? Or is she lamenting her own self-destructive impulses? And at what point do they blur into the same thing? I look in a mirror and my fingertips graze at my own reflection. Maybe I bring it on myself. I mean, I know I do, but it still stings, and I can’t quiet my own complaints. Every emotional plunge feels like the first time — a toothy first kiss that results in a bitten lip. I look down my hands and find them covered in sticky blood. I wash it off but old wounds always burst from the mirror, and that milky maroon blood coats my nail beds all over again. “It is happening again” — My body is attached to my bed and I’m swaddled in frosty white blankets. The air is sharp and clenches my throat; I croak out meager cries of distress, the words are written in the icy heavens like a sky writer, till the mist dissolves or my eyes shut tight — whichever happens first. I prefer the latter.
“Help me to name it” (“Myth”, Bloom)– How can I begin to describe what I’m feeling? How can I possibly give it words, when by definition these emotions lack structure and form? They are a violently swirling miasma of indecision and depression, heartbreak and doubt. And the terrible, crushing realization of owning up to the grievous mistakes I’ve made. What is it called, when your life is a barren smoky wasteland, and you lit the fire? Beach House helps me to name it, but the name is colorless and cruel, and I wouldn’t like to speak its name.
“The moment when a memory aches” (“Wishes”, Bloom) — These days I can’t scroll through my Instagram feed without splintering into many turbid emotions. There’s a point when I have to stop myself from scrolling back through time. Because the further back into the past I go, the more my teeth clench, my vision becomes blurry, my chest feels constricted in vice. There’s a selfie I took on the train in December, after I’d just completed a Craigslist escort job, my eyes are deadened and hollow, all determination having fled them. I gaze upon myself, and wish I could console that Meagan, who hurts so deeply, but is so invisible that she cannot even scream. Scrolling back further is a journey through a former, idyllic life: when there were roses in my backyard that grew even through the winter. When I was glowing atop a wooden box, wearing my wedding gown. It was a dusty rose color, with antiqued sequined and tiers of tulle that dazzled around my feet for when I danced with my new husband. The bridal salon allowed me to plug my iPhone in my private fitting room, and the songs were shuffled. As I tried on the gown that became The One, I remember “On The Sea” from Bloom playing at that very moment, bringing myself and my mother and my father to the happiest tears– the gown has dissolved into my memory. That wedding never took place.
“The world becomes, and swallows me” (“On The Sea”, Bloom)- Soon enough I slid down my peak. It happens to us all. Having to descend wasn’t by choice, but it was my fault. I was the source of my own corrosion and could have gamely saved myself from trauma had I made better choices. To acknowledge this is like walking a shamed rainy path, I have it stamped upon my own head for all to see, but no one can. The universe is a blackened void and I am in its maws. Are we all lost in it too? Did the world become and swallow you too?
“The heart is a stone, and this is a stone that we throw” (“10 Mile Stereo”, Teen Dream) — His amber hair faded into black and into dirt and back again and my eyes welled up with water as I fell toe-first into the nightmarish waters and sunk and sunk and sunk and sunk faster still till my breasts shatter into glittering glass chest-shards that follow the rest of my body down like escorts catching the barest scraps of daylight before the plunge into an unexplored abyss where darkness is Queen and I am its vassal. My mouth is a scream-shape and the saline water rushes in to fill my throat. Soon I am leaking blood from my chest-shards in a diabolical vapor trail through the benthic zone where light is a laughable memory and I replay every moment of frustration/intonation/desensualization/impersonalization. I spend another three lifetimes languishing upon the sea floor piecing together my chest-shards. “The heart is a stone, and this is a stone that we throw”.
“Is nothing like lapis lazuli” — (“Lazuli”, Bloom). It’s just a pretty blue gem. But in them I see eyes I’ll never love. A stomach I’ll never again kiss. A neck I’ll never smell. But I wear his perfume; nutmeg, caraway, vetiver, leather. And I keep a piece of lapis lazuli on my nightstand, and think of how he is so like a gentle cymbal crash or tremolo guitars, or Legrand’s faraway voice, millions of miles away, not pining, not wishing, but daydreaming, and that is solace enough. That tiny thought gives me closure enough to smile. Until we die I wear your ring.
No music has ever made me feel so plaintively understood. Beach House’s music allows me to view the summation of my life as something that isn’t shameful or destroying, but as something beautiful, because beauty exists in sadness too, it’s just a sorrowing version of it. The tendency to view beauty as absent of trauma isn’t only gluttonous, it does a disservice to the richness of pain as one of the most profound ways to experience humanity. When I hurt, I am reminded that I alive. Beach House teaches me that my days spent softly crying alone are every bit as freeing as love that I’ve felt, or the wonderment I still strive for, or the dreams I cling to, but more accurately, that I treasure. In their music, who I am is exactly enough.