Best Coast were responsible for providing my soundtrack to the summer of 2010 with their sun-soaked, debut album Crazy for You, and remains my go-to album whenever there seems to be a distinct lack of sunshine in my life (a regular occurrence living in Leeds) aided by simplistically structured lovelorn stories of unrequited love, a penchant for getting stoned and references to Snacks the cat, accomplished perfectly with the occasional nod to 1960’s pop. Two years after the well received Crazy for You, Bethany and Bobb are back with a new album, The Only Place, aptly in time for summer and my quest for a new musical muse to accompany me on summer days.
The Only Place is noticeably less lo-fi than its predecessor, but that is to be expected when you learn that it was in the safe hands of established producer Jon Brion, whose professional stamp is all over it. I expected to ever so slightly recoil at the idea of a grander, more polished Best Coast, but the enhanced sound is delivered in a way that is suited to Best Coast’s style. The lack of reverb and fuzz merely keeps the music grounded, while showing off the studio flourishes that highlight the bands progression. What the polished sound has done, however, is emphasize the weak quality of Best Coast’s lyrics.
Lyrically, garage-rock music can often hide behind a screen of lo-fidelity and fuzz, this time Cosentino’s voice is at the forefront of each song, it’s strong, clear and you can hear every word in its entirety. Each word is incredibly basic and somewhat lazily executed. You could argue that this is what Best Coast are about, though: no frills lyrics to relate to; sadly the finer sound prevents the lyrics from sounding as charming as they do on Crazy for You.
The Only Place is not without its charms, though, and the opening track and title of the Album ‘The Only Place’ commences with a feel-good vibe accompanied by an ode to California, and judging by my abrupt urge to pack up and move there, this song would be a fitting advertisement for the Californian tourist board. You expect this to set the tone for the remainder of the album, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover a varied set of themes within each song. Initially, the warm guitar twangs and Californian imagery provoke the assumption that the album is nothing more than a love letter to her hometown, but dig a little deeper and you realise something has been troubling Cosentino.
Her lyrics still show melancholic hints of angst and disappointment, particularly in songs ‘Last Year’ and ‘Better Girl’ which coincidentally appear to be two of the stand-out tracks on this album, confirming that Bethany’s forte lies within depicting heart break and self deprecation. ‘Last Year’ is also a track that is reminiscent of a less refined Best Coast, introducing that much needed gritty garage guitar sound that so wonderfully resonates with the simplicity of Bethany’s lyrics. The tempo of the album significantly drops as Cosentino dabbles in self-analysis on songs like ‘No One Like You’ and ‘Up All Night’. Both of which highlight the front- woman’s ponderous ways but proves to be less successful at making an impact because of the distinct lack of noise and general Best Coast-isms. Bethany’s crooning over the ballad-ridden songs do mirror that of something from a 1960’s girl group and provides us with the knowledge that she still has a soft spot for the era.
The Only Place is deserved of high praise, however I’m not content with saying that this album is flawless. Best Coast’s sloppy carelessness is what I loved most about them, and this new, grander approach leaves me feeling that something is missing from the album; with Bethany being so intent on showing the world that she’s not just a cat loving stoner by acquiring a more serious reputation, my guess is that she wouldn’t agree, or even care for that matter.