Bethany Cosentino bounces back into our lives all irrepressibly upbeat, and full of wonder at the “mountains, birds, ocean, trees,” and having “fun, fun, fun,” but there’s no T-Bird Time-Out from Daddy for this California Girl. You Californians are so damn cheery. You’ve “got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun, got the wav(v)es.” “Why would you live anywhere else?” Bethany questions. I mentally flick through alliteration-heavy, bile-coated put downs I’ve had time to amass due to a life predominantly spent indoors in one of the UK’s rainiest habitations that chance has planted me, my only tan coming from glowering at your dimpled, sun-kissed mugs on TV, and I huff, and I puff, and get ready to give you and your monosyllabic California Tourist Board anthem what-for… aw, but who am I kidding? The best that Best Coast had to offer has survived the promotional campaigns for multinational chains and arena rock support slots with their oblivious update on the ageless Pop/Rock phenomenon of the seemingly glib, but ultimately adroit emoting of what it feels like to be, like, young and in love but still sort of bummed-out by stuff.
Consentino shrugs-off second album trouble by nonchalantly dropping conversational-style references to her mother’s advice, friends’ reaction to her success, and the drag and hang-ups of money, without it seeming either brag or bore in tracks like “How They Want Me To Be,” and more immediately “Last Year.” There’s such a cool chug of a riff and blasé lyric in the latter about frittering her money away and the inevitability it’ll one day all be gone and then she’ll have to write another song (either that or cobble together a new line of clothing for Urban Outfitters, eh Beth?!), that the sentiments invariably hit the mark even if the palette employed is at first somewhat lacking for more seasoned listeners.
Producer Jon Brion — exhalted soundtrack composer extraordinaire, overseer of Kanye West’s golden years/Elliott Smith’s embryonic shot at his swan song, as well as solid gold songwriter that’s been too flipping busy to finish building on a single (self) release as a solo artist — ditches the reverb-foggy lo-fi of debut Crazy For You, exposing Best Coast’s fundamental limitations and laying bare the simplicity of the songs. But, after all, it’s that simplicity that’s won so many over. Still intact is the lovelorn pop of its predecessor, albeit more delicate in the form of songs like the reassurance-seeking “No One Like You” which employs musical stylings that have a hint of an influence of those sentiments’ heretofore best expression, in its waltzing, late ’50s-tinged song structure.
As the album winds down things recline into the unprecedented doze of more soporific climes via the aptly titled “Dreaming My Life Away” and “Up All Night” (briefly interrupted by first-half recap “Let’s Go Home”) hinting at perhaps a more considered approach by Bruno and Cosentino on future outings, with their more evolved approach to atmosphere. The Only Place isn’t the be-all-end-all. Musically speaking, yes, there are far more interesting places to visit, but this certainly ticks a lot of boxes and is as good a place as any to indulge those simple pleasures that resonate with the many. This is the best Pop has to offer, soak up the serotonin and sunshine.
The Go Gos – Vacation
First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
Mazzy Star – Among My Swan
Stream: Best Coast – “The Only Place”