It's easy to hear the Baltimore duo Beach House as victims of prettiness. Their songs — mid-tempo puffs of teary indie-pop flecked with old soul and country — wouldn't dare intrude on a mellow mood to make a statement. At their most agitated, Beach House glides or rolls. Most of the time, they tackle their songs with the inertia of a bookshelf.
Paradoxically, though, Devotion — like 2006's Beach House — is an album that finds impact in discretion. Instead of striking, it seeps and sneaks. Certain moments come to stand out — “Gila,” “Astronaut,” “D.A.R.L.I.N.G.” — albeit in the most noncommittal way possible. Their dedication to their own sense of calm is unwavering. And though Devotion's organ-heavy arrangements and Victoria Legrand's somnambulistic torch singer pose feel more sanguine than on their debut, the music is still characterized by an intoxicating lack of command. Listeners aren't guided or carried, but set adrift from the opening notes and rarely bothered after.
Like any cultish band, Beach House can be a tough sell to the impatient. They're unnervingly consistent. But for listeners who can appreciate a low pulse, Devotion offers crucial variations on a theme of melancholia: instances where a chill brings comfort; when a gray streak painted across the sky makes the world feel insular and cozy; and when not being able to give a precise name to the soft little sadness wafting in and out of your day is precisely what enables you to appreciate its passing beauty.