CD: Best Coast - The Only Place | New music reviews, news & interviews
CD: Best Coast - The Only Place
California duo keep things simple on their sunny sophomore release
Any concerns that Best Coast might have abandoned the sun-kissed California scuzz-pop sound that made their 2010 debut, Crazy For You, such a runaway success are answered in its opening - and title - track. “So leave your coat behind / We’re gonna make it to the beach on time,” Bethany Cosentino sings, and I sigh from a rainy Glasgow attic and keep on waiting for summer.
It’s a little simplistic to call The Only Place a rehash, so perhaps in deference to producer Jon Brion we could call it a sequel. The album is full of the things that have always made Best Coast great - short, simple songs packed with hooks and heartbreak and Sixties girl group harmonies - but without the scuzzy, amateur production that was their debut’s signature. With that gone, everything seems bigger and brighter.
Brion, now as well known for the scores that subtly underpin indie hits like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as for production credits with artists as diverse as Kanye West and Fiona Apple, plays to Cosentino’s skills as a great pop songwriter without robbing her work and that of multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno of its lo-fi charm. In fact the cleaner sound allows Cosentino’s extraordinary voice to soar in a way it’s never really gotten the chance to before, lending a depth to lyrics that could otherwise run the risk of sounding like they've been adapted from the scrawls in a teenage girl’s diary.
Lyrically there isn’t a massive thematic shift in Cosentino’s concerns. Although the title track is a love song to the duo’s native California, for most of the rest of the album the central questions are either ones of self-identity or of a slightly melodramatic romantic longing for the sort of boy who only ever leaves the singer crying at the other end of the phone. Although the vocals, on “No One Like You” in particular, sell the second of these themes far more convincingly than is probably deserved, it's the former that proves more fascinating. Songs like “Better Girl” and album standout “How You Want Me to Be” show a songwriter who has ditched the valley girl brattiness and is standing on the cusp of adulthood - perhaps with little idea yet, but confident enough to know that will come in time.
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