Best Coast – California Nights

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I’ve seen Best Coast live three times. While the sound on the albums has evolved, one of the nice things about the live shows is that the band basically plows through the old and new stuff in the same fashion. I think Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno should stick to small and medium clubs and avoid the arena shows that they are apparently shooting for, but that’s just me. As long as the basic sound doesn’t change – and I don’t see that happening without Cosentino being led astray – I am okay with the more professional presentation on the albums. I think she will always be that kid in her bedroom, sadly ripping bong hits because she is too depressed to go walk on the beach right outside her door.

What I Think of This Album

Bigger, bolder, louder, slicker. A perfectly understandable move for Best Coast. And while this is a great album, I do miss the more amateurish feel of the debut. The core duo of Bethany Cosentino and Bob Bruno is rounded out by two multi-instrumentalists (one of whom is apparently a real drummer), and the fact that all four are credited with guitar, and three of them with keyboards tells you a lot about how shiny this album is. The vocals are multi-tracked and pushed out front, the booming drums sound like the soundtrack to the War of 1812, and the guitars and keyboards are sometimes indistinguishable. Cosentino sounds great – her voice is well-suited for this bid for stardom.

The larger canvas sometimes exposes her lyrics, which are more in line with bedroom confessionals than arena rockers, but first, Cosentino sells the shit out of her angst and depression, so the lyrics still come off as genuine expressions and not the product of laziness; and second, there are and have been plenty of male-fronted acts with equally or more unsophisticated lyrics (fucking Weezer, for Christ’s sake) but no one ever gave them grief for it (there will never be an annotated booklet of Def Leppard’s Hysteria). And moreover, the melodies here are fantastic; almost every song is overflowing with tunefulness.

In another universe, there would be several radio hits pulled from this album:  the insistent “Fine Without You” (great “ooh-oooh”s in the background) and misery-tinged “Run Through My Head” are outstanding. Similarly, “In My Eyes” seeps regret through its otherwise impenetrable wall of guitars, keyboards, and drums, while Cosentino belts it out for those of us in the cheap seats. “So Unaware” benefits from a great melody in the verses and a repeated descending riff. The rest of the tracks are almost as strong. “Heaven Sent” has a Replacements-esque “Answering Machine” intro before the drums shove you into the pit and the limbs start flailing. A more subtle strain of Replacements worship arrives on the jumpy “Fading Fast,” which rides a riff that sounds very much like the one Tommy Stinson employed on “Tickled to Tears” off of Bash & Pop’s debut album. The Pretenders are a jumping off point for the chiming “When Will I Change,” which surges into modern rock territory at the end. Girl-group backing vocals add the right touch to the mournful “Jealousy.” The title track adopts a slow and glistening atmospheric approach (though retains the lyrics about weed) – it doesn’t quite work but points for trying something different. On the other hand, dramatic closer “Wasted Time” is an excellent ballad, with Spector-ish sonics.

I’ve been resisting saying this, because I guess it feels critical, though it is not: this album reminds me a lot of the sound of Hole’s Celebrity Skin (an album I like), though the transition for Best Coast feels much more organic and the songs are stronger.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Confused and alone.” “Why don’t you like me?” “Sleep won’t ever come to me.” Cosentino knows the story of my life.

Release Date

May, 2015

The Cover Art

Excellent. A classic California image, and perfectly moody. I wish the band wasn’t in the shot, but I’ll allow it.

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