Best Coast “The Only Place” (Mexican Summer Records)
“What a year this day has been/what a day this year has been…”
That is how Beth Cosentino describes the whirlwind surrounding her band, Best Coast.
The song, “Last Year,” is a grunge guitar waltz in ¾ time that encapsulates
the swift journey Best Coast took from pop hopefuls to the darlings of Indie rock.
Consentino, on vocals and guitar, and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno,
burst on the scene as Best Coast less than two years ago. Their debut, “Crazy For
You” was a decidedly a lo-fi affair, mixing chiming harmonies and ringing guitars
with everyday lyrics about cats and weed.
“Crazy For You” received unanimous critical acclaim and instant media
attention. Now Best Coast is back with their excellent follow-up, “The Only Place,”
Produced by Jon Brion , (Fiona Apple, Elliott Smith, Kanye West), and recorded at
the legendary Capitol Recording Studios.
The album opens with the insanely catchy title track. A galloping backbeat
and chiming surf guitar propel the sunny lyrics. Reminiscent of the Beach Boys’
“Surfin Safari” or the Go-Go’s “This Town,” Cosentino extols the myriad pleasures
of California. Almost incredulous, she asks “Why would you live anywhere else?
We’ve got the sun we’ve got the waves/ We’ve got the beach, we’ve got the babes.”
It’s a convincing argument, and it could become the state’s unofficial anthem.
Like “Last Year,” both “Better Girl” and “Do You Love Me” address
the downside of growing up in public. On the former, a loping cow-poke groove
collides with prickly guitar chords.
The melody on the latter echoes Nirvana’s “About A Boy, while
Cosentino’s multi-tracked vocals recall the sweet-sour allure of nearly forgotten
90s bands like the Blake Babies and that dog.
A stutter-stop rhythm wraps around sweet, cascading guitar lines
on “No One Like You.” The yearning vocals here, as well as on “How They Want
Me To Be,” owe a huge debt to classic girl groups like the Ronettes, the Crystals
and the Shirelles.
Jon Brion’s production adds a layer of sophistication here. Especially
on the shimmering, hypnotic “Dreaming My Life Away.”
However, the best songs here are the most basic: the crackling
“Why I Cry” marries a brisk backbeat and strafing guitar licks with Cosentino’s
sad –sack slightly self- pitying lyrics.
Or the frothy “Let’s Go Home,” which recalls the kinetic new wave
of the Go-Go’s at their early 80s peak. It mixes jangly pure pop guitar with
lyrics that evoke comparisons to the Beach Boys masterpiece, “In My Room.”
Cloaked in rippling castenets and swelling strings, “Up All Night”
closes the album on a somber note. The instrumentation and arrangement
suggest an homage to producer Phil Spector. The mood is regretful and
dramatic. The lyrics fraught with romantic angst…”You and me, too good
to be/Too true to be/Too dumb to see.” If Hollywood was still making
“Gidget” movies, this song would be perfect for the part where Gidget and
Moondoggy have a fight!
That’s the thing about Best Coast. It blends the sweet with
the sour and the profound with the mundane. The melodies are buoyant,
but concise.
With “The Only Place,” Best Coast manages to elude the dreaded
“sophomore slump” that has jinxed many promising new artists. Jon Brion
has expanded their musical pallete without sacrificing Best Coast’s indie cred.

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