Bethany Cosentino : Natural Disaster

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Bethany Cosentino Natural Disaster review

Bethany Cosentino, like many of us, is preoccupied with heat. On the cover of Natural Disaster, her first solo LP outside of Best Coast, she stands on a scorched landscape hanging with bright orange smoke. “This is the hottest summer I can ever remember/ ‘Cause the world is on fire,” she declares in the leadoff hook. Later on “there’s a heat wave rolling through the southlands/ But there’s no water to put out the fire.” At one point she observes, “The hills behind our house/ Could literally just burst right into flames.” 

A lot has changed since Crazy For You. Throughout her first release outside of the beloved indie rock project with Bobb Bruno, Cosentino alludes to reflection and growth. There’s a desire for serenity over chaos and a commitment to self-love reflected in both the plainspoken lyrics and the production choices. Continuing the general upward climb in fidelity, Natural Disaster features Cosentino’s most mature songwriting yet. Aided by prolific pop producer Butch Walker, she lands on a bright Americana and country-flecked sound with a ‘90s pop heart. She’s named her inspirations: Sheryl Crow, Shania Twain, the Indigo Girls. (She even traded praises on Twitter with one of her musical heroes, Michelle Branch.)

These songs are all effortless to take in. Early tracks like “It’s Fine” and “Easy” lean more heavily into the country side with crisp, catchy results. “My Own City” brings the second half back into pure pop territory with a yearning chorus: “Cause I don’t want to stay the same/ We were born to change/ And you can fight it but you figure out it’s gonna happen anyway.” For the way verbal simplicity, genuine emotion and melody all click, this is one of the album’s most powerful moments.

But there are times when the glossy production flattens the emotional pitch. Despite being one of the biggest rockers, “Calling On Angels” does little to distinguish itself; the penultimate track, “It’s a Journey,” sets us up for a climactic ballad but lacks the emotional wallop to stick the landing. “Real Life,” a jauntier rhythmic switch-up, also feels like a missed opportunity. 

Lyrically, Cosentino’s always had a plainspoken style. Through Best Coast she crafted songs that pack a punch from simple language. Natural Disaster often feels like it’s missing those stakes. But maybe that’s no oversight. After all, there’s something to be said for fully committing to your instincts as an artist—from dropping out of college to start a band to re-embracing your musical touchstones 14 years later. The songs here sound bright and fully-formed, like pop radio singles from the not-too-distant past. And if they’re documents of real progress on a path toward contentment, all the better. If nothing else, Natural Disaster introduces a new sound with a lot more room to explore. 

Label: Concord

Year: 2023

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