Release Date: Feb 21, 2020
Record label: Concord
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Noise Pop
The main theme of 2015's 'California Nights' was being devastatingly lovestruck. Bethany Cosentino's melancholy lyrics tangled intricately with lo-fi surfer pop to distill the idea that Best Coast might be the Californian dream in human form. Five years later and the cloudy pessimism has been lifted. Sunshine has leaked through palm trees, the whiskey bottle has been shelved, old feelings have been put to rest and a more optimistic Best Coast have emerged.
The Best Coast narrative was simple--cats, California, crushes, weed, all sung over sun-drenched guitars. But a closer read of the band's output can be disconcerting: "Look to the future, nothing's there," Bethany Cosentino sang over tambourine hits on 2012's The Only Place. On her 2015 follow-up California Nights, her tone was similarly ebullient as she sang, "I have no reason to be sad/But I find a way/Almost every day." The song was titled "When Will I Change." Fuzz pedals and spacious vocal reverb cast a warm sepia tone, but on their own, some of her words sooner evoked dead-end depression than playful slacktivism.
Best Coast's 2015 album California Nights was a huge sounding '90s-influenced statement that positioned the group on the verge of stadium stardom. After a five-year period of rethinking their music and personal lives, the duo return with a record that takes a less bombastic approach. Always Tomorrow is a more musically diverse record that flows from Weezer-y punk-pop ("Everything Has Changed") to smoothed-out HAIM-style pop ("For the First Time") with stops at girl group melancholy ("True") and bopping new wave ("Seeing Red") along the way.
In those wild music industry years when physical sales dive-bombed and streaming had yet to take hold, songs and artists often made their way to the listener in fractured ways. A blog post here, a shoddy mp3 there, the old tastemaker rules were eroded and warped at dizzying speed. Bands and entire genres were titanically hyped only to disappear without a trace, while the explosion of choice brought with the digital age made it harder for artists to become household names.
"I didn't want to write a song about you, yeah/ In case it was too good to be true" is a genius opening line to a song (True), with its multiple meanings and reflexive ironies. You can hear that Bethany Cosentino is proud of it, because she really drags out its delivery, almost to the point that its punchy brilliance is lost. What's disappointing about Best Coast's first album in five years is that not much else feels as shocking or powerfully true.
B est Coast emerged in 2010 as the faces of a California slacker wave that evangelised cats, weed, guitar and the beach, and not a great deal more - an enviable lifestyle that enchanted fans and chimed with a generation's post-recession hopelessness, though its burnout was inevitable. Sure enough, Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno's peers vanished, and their scene's louche allure was surpassed over the subsequent decade by entrepreneurialism, and later wellness. Somehow, Best Coast survived, pursuing an unexpected sense of purpose.