Release Date: Oct 22, 2013
Record label: Jewel City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Following Best Coast’s explosion onto the indie-rock landscape back in 2010 with debut album Crazy for You, lovers of fuzz-tinged guitar pop were all a flutter at the possibility of having yet another band to champion amongst the sudden wave of 50s and 60s influenced surf rock. While they were still reeling from the arrival of bands like Vivian Girls a couple of years before and the slightly more brutal Wavves to contend with, Best Coast suddenly did a 180, enlisting the skills of acclaimed producer Jon Brion to helm their second record The Only Place. The record upset a few people.
On this seven-song EP, Bethany Cosentino combines the sundown power-pop buzz of Best Coast's 2010 debut with the Hulk-hug melodies and emotional gravity of last year's The Only Place to make for something masterfully archetypal but utterly her own. The EP was inspired by Patsy Cline, Mazzy Star, My Bloody Valentine and Ambien – four great tastes that go great together, as the set fades from bubblegum rush to torchy shoegaze, and Cosentino peels off lyrics that cut to the heart of romantic torment and psychological torpor. "I'm waking up to strangers with their shadows on my face," she sings.
“You taught me that I would grow old,” Bethany Cosentino laments in “Fear of My Identity”—one of seven tracks off of Best Coast’s latest release. While it’s clear that, within the track, Cosentino is referring to a romantic entanglement, she could have just as easily been talking about her musical progress on Best Coast’s self-described mini-LP. Gone are the forced country melodies of 2012’s The Only Place and the lyrical crutches of 2010’s Crazy For You; Fade Away effortlessly pairs Best Coast’s patented surf sound with crisp production and much stronger vocals from Cosentino.
Bethany Cosentino is 26 years old and watching the clock anxiously. On her band’s new mini-album, Fade Away, she’s often found monitoring the unsettling passage of time. “I don’t know who I am this year,” goes one song. “When did I wake up and suddenly my soul had grown so old?” she asks.
Bethany Cosentino's dad-rocking turn on last year's The Only Place proved to be more affecting than many thought it would be. However, on Best Coast's new seven-song EP, she sounds like a woman in transition. Her music has always addressed personal anxieties, usually in regards to boys, her cat (Snacks) and smoking weed, in that order. The Only Place threatened that holy muse trifecta when it appeared that Cosentino had found some modicum of inner happiness.
An EP – or mini-album, as interchangeable as the terms may be – is, by default, a transitional release. There’s too much to say to put just one song out, and yet not enough to complete a record, and the material isn’t deemed likely to fit with a further few songs.It’s no surprise that the songs on ‘Fade Away’ are on such a release, nor that Bethany Cosentino’s likely to write more to fit alongside them. These are transitional songs.
After the release of 2012's The Only Place, Best Coast parted ways with their label, Mexican Summer, and Bethany Cosentino started her own label, Jewel City, to release the Fade Away EP. That is basically the only thing that's changed in the Best Coast camp. The sound is slick and punchy, the songs are straightforward and hooky, and Cosentino's lyrics are slightly awkward but kind of endearingly so.
Since 2009, the Californian duo led by Bethany Cosentino have peddled their snappy lo-fi guitar tunes across two albums with all the energy of a comatose cat. Releasing a seven-track mini-album is perhaps Cosentino’s most self-aware move yet: when you’ve heard one Best Coast song you’ve heard them all, so why record 12 when seven will do? First track ‘This Lonely Morning’, features bandmate Bobb Bruno’s trademark distorted chords, while Cosentino sounds like a snail-paced Jenny Lewis singing The Wannadies’ ‘You And Me Song’ in a retro karaoke bar. Elsewhere, rhymes such as “I wait for you to stay/But sometimes you just go away” suggest her lyrical nous hasn’t developed.
With two albums and a few EPs under their belt, Best Coast has settled into their artistic identity. The project of vocalist Bethany Cosentino and guitarist/drummer Bobb Bruno established a place among the top of the indie surf pop scene, a lane they played a major part in creating or at least in re-imagining. Cosentino’s melodically lethargic vocals fuse with the enervated lo-fi guitar drones to paint a vivid picture of a California summer.
For a band that’s ditched the lo-fi fog and quickly grown in prominence with little sign of slowing, Fade Away seems like an odd title for Best Coast’s new mini-album. Their charmingly uncomplicated debut album Crazy For You sounded accidental, as if Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno had left the tape rolling as they let loose a set of immaculately crafted, easy pop tunes full of simple, open-hearted lyrics. They followed that up with The Only Place, which, while it looked outside of their pot smoke-shrouded bedroom, felt anything but easy with glossy production spotlighting songs that were charming due to their hazy nature to begin with.
After the sun-dappled slacker charm of their debut, Best Coast successfully alienated most of their fans with a follow-up that ditched the sound which first brought them acclaim. Trading down their lo-fi atmospherics in favour of high gloss production, The Only Place left little in its wake but a hit-and-miss pop shambles. One that drew stark focus on something the stoner haze of Crazy for You had obscured: a core of utter vapidity.
Fade Away sounds like a reclamation record for Bethany Cosentino; never before has the California girl come off so confident vocally, even as she openly second guesses herself in songs like “Who Have I Become?” and “Fear Of My Identity. ” Cosentino and musical partner Bobb Bruno still balance the fuzz and polish of Best Coast’s signature instrumentation just fine, but it is the sharp confidence in her singing and songwriting that make this seven-song set sound like a dream record all the way through. “Fade Away” and “I Don’t Know How” are like updates on some of Patsy Cline's most heart-wrenching tracks, but the homage is welcome—Cosentino’s voice nails it, layered with just the right amount of distorted guitar to keep her from sounding dated.
opinion byBRENDAN FRANK Occasionally a musician has such a well-defined personality that you get an idea of who they are as a person before you even listen to their music. Such was the case with Best Coast’s Bethany Consentino, a quirky, boy-obsessed, cat-loving, stoned self-starter from California whose bedroom demos were essentially left untreated on her band’s 2010 debut. Indeed, her authenticity almost seemed to be enough to carry Crazy For You on its own.