Release Date: May 15, 2012
Record label: Mexican Summer
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop, Noise Pop
Two years ago, Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast was just a chill 23-year-old California girl with a cat named Snacks and a record collection full of teenage kicks from the Shangri-Las to Blink-182. But after the L.A. duo released Crazy for You, a massively catchy set of modern beach pop, it seemed like everyone wanted to hang with Cosentino, whether indie kids taken with her goofy humor or middle-agers impressed by her old-school songwriting chops.
BEST COAST play the Phoenix July 21. See listing. Rating: NNNN The story of the hip lo-fi garage/surf band ditching the fuzz for cleaner sounds has officially become a huge cliché, but we won't hold it against Best Coast. Bethany Cosentino is growing up, and this album is largely about that process.
While The Only Place loses much of the simplicity that made Crazy for You such a breezy, fun listen, there’s only room for growth in records to come—and damn it if every other hook doesn’t stick to your ears like sand on the beach..
In 2010 Bethany Cosentino won over the ears of… well, damn near everyone and their mother, with her band Best Coast’s debut, Crazy For You—without really trying. It was an album that was as endearing in its candor as it was in its simple and summery pop constructions. Simply put: Cosentino was far from reinventing the verse-chorus-verse, but she did manage to give by-the-numbers fuzz pop a welcome jolt.
Best CoastThe Only Place[Mexican Summer; 2012]By Chase McMullen; May 16, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetNot that this is necessarily news to fans who have followed the band through their brief life, but Best Coast occupies a precarious place in music in 2012. And in and of itself, that's nothing new: in a industry predominated by indie fans and hipsters, bands are chosen as hype darlings for the sake of trends as often as, if not more so, out of actual musical quality. Quite often in fact, these acts don’t necessarily have any grand idea to guide them in building a sound worthy of longevity.
It’s hard not to feel a tinge of jealousy towards Bethany Cosentino. Sure, she has got a few intimacy issues but given her band started out writing songs about smoking weed and never really stopped, Best Coast have done amazing well for themselves. By that we mean the de facto spokeswoman for slackers everywhere got to put out an album with her cat Snacks on the cover, tour the US with her boyfriend out of Wavves and eulogise about crap Nineties TV to a Twitter following of almost 80,000 fans.
Yearning has been at the root of a lot of great singles. Pop music articulates desire, and you don't think about how much you want something unless you can see it dangling in front of you, just out of reach. Crazy for You, the first full-length by Bethany Cosentino and her Best Coast collaborator Bobb Bruno, got a lot of mileage out of yearning. Her songs structures were basic; her production consisted of the reverb-heavy, fuzzed-out nods to 1960s pop; and her lyrics found her pining for boys and feeling sad about being alone.
Californian duo Best Coast's 2010 debut, Crazy for You, mixed sunny pop with fuzzy garage rock to impressive effect. The follow-up picks up where it left off, only with more studio polish, the title track a guilelessly irresistible paean to their home state ("We were born with sun in our teeth and in our hair"), as joyful as it is catchy. Less successful, however, are the ponderous moments when frontwoman Bethany Cosentino dabbles in introspection and the tempo drops, as on No One Like You and Up All Night.
For their second album, The Only Place, California duo Best Coast hired Jon Brion as producer. Right away it's clear that the fuzzily lo-fi noise pop sound of their debut, Crazy for You, was a thing of the past, and the band was looking to smooth things out quite noticeably. Hiring Brion to produce a noise pop record is like asking Rothko to paint your mailbox.
At first, I attempt a bike ride with The Only Place, Best Coast’s latest. It’s spring-going-on-summer, after all, and they’re notorious pop-adepts, catchy and pithy, heavier on concision than meaning. But there’s a hitch in my plan: the fab couple won’t play on my little MP3 gizmo, an equally sun-eager Philips Songbird. The music files are in the wrong format.
When the word first got out that Best Coast was working with über-producer Jon Brion for its sophomore effort The Only Place, more than a few eyebrows were raised over the incongruous pairing of the L.A. duo’s flaky lo-fi approach and the symphonic-pop impresario’s slick aesthetic. But really, anyone who’s been tracking the stratospheric rise of Bethany Cosentino shouldn’t have been surprised, since making a big pop statement would be the final bulletpoint to tick off a to-do list of attention-grabbing moves that’s been growing since Best Coast’s charming 2010 debut Crazy for You bubbled up from the underground and into the mainstream.
As storied and mythical a spot as the garage, the beach remains an important signifier in the American pop pantheon—a place suited for both mindless fun and heartbroken desire. Picking up on this hallowed tradition, a spate of recent bands have seized control of the seaside motif, most of them imbuing the jangly rhythms of surf rock with a certain measure of knowing distance. Although one of the most successful of these outfits, Best Coast is also an outlier, existing far down the spectrum from frontwoman Bethany Cosentino's current boyfriend, Wavves' Nathan Williams.
The Only Place has all the signifiers of the "mature" second record. Following Best Coast's break-out debut, 2010's Crazy For You, the band's main woman Bethany Cosentino dropped the lo-fi crunch of that record for a buffed-up and shining fidelity. If Crazy For You wanted to sound like it came through a transistor radio hung from a beach chair, The Only Place wants to ring clarion clear out from Laurel Canyon.
Two years ago, Bethany Cosentino couldn’t stop singing about her boyfriend. She spinned tales of being alone, mending her broken, obsessed heart, and fighting a hunger for someone that just didn’t want to be there. Throughout 12 summer-ready anthems, she blended youthful melancholia with the afternoon glare of a sun that refused to quit. Each track sounded stripped from the bedroom, as if they were culled from melted demos left on the windowsill of a room that’s seen too many wake and bakes.
“I want babies to be created to this music,” declared Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino of ‘The Only Place’. So whisper a silent prayer for The Lost Generation who’ll soon swamp the Earth: Children Of The Corn fatted up on sexless lo-fi mush. The swoonsome charm of Best Coast’s debut, ‘Crazy For You’, was in its feel-good slacker vibes rather than its invention, but here they’re going through the motions, missionary style, with mechanical jangly pop and the wince-inducing triteness of Cosentino’s lyrics.
Abear cuddles a map of California on the cover of Best Coast's second album, that being the "Only Place" that the LA duo celebrate inside it. This concept is a move forward, they claim, from 2010 debut Crazy for You, which impressed with its songs about valley-girl ennui and a low-slung, sunstruck pop sound readymade for indie films. This time round, producer Jon Brion (Kanye West, Fiona Apple) turns up the brightness, and the lo-fi edge that recalled 90s bands such as the Breeders and Hole disappears.
“It is pretty emotional. I'm not really holding back. And that makes me a little bit nervous because I am letting the public in on all of these personal things.” So says Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino of her new “grown-up record”, and before I listened to The Only Place, this seemed like exactly what I wanted from Best Coast. It turns out not to be much of a musical departure from their debut Crazy For You; it’s another jangly indie-pop affair released just in time for summer to arrive.
Remember that friend who decided they'd just take a few years off to relax and "enjoy life"? They were fun to be around: they threw some rad parties and knew the number to call to get the dankest weed. The years go by and people moved on, but that old friend is still up to the same shenanigans. Except now it's getting worrisome. They'll have to show some forward progress sooner or later—won't they? .
When you’re preparing yourself for the ‘First Listen’ of any band, act or artist, you already have a few preconceptions nested in your mind before you’ve even unwrapped the gem case wrapper or opened the zipped file. With a band like Best Coast, you would be freely showing yourself to be a damned liar if you didn’t admit you’d be expecting sunshine and cats. Well, this forthcoming album - entitled ‘The Only Place’, Best Coast’s second to date - has a grizzly bear on the freakin’ cover! Our mind is collectively blown, all things that have come before evidently bears (get it?) no meaning now.But things don’t stop there.
If there was any question after the release of their debut album, 2010's Crazy For You, that Best Coast were interested in remaining among the lo-fi class, well, album number two should answer that loud and clear. Produced by Jon Brion (Kanye West, Rufus Wainwright) in the famous Capitol Studios, The Only Place twangs and jangles with a pristine aural lustre that's as far from their early seven-inches as it gets. Singer/songwriter Bethany Cosentino was also very vocal about ditching her "stoner, cat loving girl" reputation, and so The Only Place's narrative is full of uncertainties and questions that bake and fry in California sun-soaked harmonies.
Not-so-lo-fi in 2012, Best Coast are tidier, shinier and looking us right in the eye. Nick Levine 2012 “I just want to lose that stoner cat girl label and for people to take me more seriously," said Bethany Cosentino recently. Yes, her band's 2010 debut, Crazy for You, won kudos from music critics, cool kids and even Drew Barrymore, who directed one of its videos.
Fuzzy-buzzy starry-eyed beach-pop no longer, Bethany Cosentino's Best Coast has mellowed in the wake of its fame. Smeared in placid, wheelbarrow country, its second album, The Only Place, plucks wholesome heartstrings, with both Loretta Lynn and Stevie Nicks as close overseers. Cosentino's mostly concerned with boys and their unreciprocated feelings, but these songs are antiques, fitting an outdated mold, like a historian's guide to love song writing.
Bethany Cosentino’s love affair with California is not exactly clandestine. From the name of her band to the inclusion of the state’s likeliness on two consecutive album covers, the BestCoast frontwoman’s obsessions with all things Golden State is so profuse that it practically rivals the Beach Boys. In fact, it’s pretty much a given that if you know who Cosentino is, then you’re also fully aware that the only thing on this earth that matters to her more than the country’s most populous state is her cat, Snacks.
In an internet swiftly filling to a dark cesspit of quantity over quality, nothing is safe, especially music. As the self-conscious neophiles drag their nets through the internet's void, these trawlers of taste catch the occasional gem, but it becomes blotted by the crud that shortly follows. And then these over-hyped 'artists' get reblogged again and again and again until they essentially are nothing more than another blog band...