Things have taken quite a turn for ‘Best Coast’ in the past two years, with an inimically depleted line up, a new producer, and a statement that broke the hearts that predecessor ‘Crazy For You’ managed to capture; “I just want to lose that stoner girl cat label and for people to take me more seriously.” For the girl who when asked 2 years ago what job she’d have if she wasn’t in a band and what her biggest vice in life was, answered “a cat trainer” and “eating potato chips”, it’s a pretty drastic evolution.
To begin with, the first single and title track that opens up the album holds a torch to the sunny upbeat sounds that we’re used to from ‘Best Coast’, relieving the tension caused by anticipation of more adult and sober material. On the contrary actually, the nursery-rhymes & repetition accompanied by the rotation of three simple chords makes for a fairly basic juvenile song but there’s something to be said for that in that after the first few plays, you’re kind of forced to like it in that way that you have to listen to a song when it gets stuck in your head purely for the satisfaction of hearing it in reality rather than as a figment of your imagination.
Next track ‘Why I Cry’ is ‘The Only Place’’s moodier twin, with the same chord progression, but sulkier lyrics. Again the only thing that lets it down is the “chorus”, a term which I use pretty loosely since it only seems to comprise of the line “you don’t know why I cry” four times, filling a space in the song which had the potential to be a really catchy hook with just a little bit more imagination.
A glimmer of what I expected to greet my ears in terms of a more “serious” sound comes in the form of ‘Last Year’, and is an example of exactly what ‘Best Coast’ do best. The soothing melody that delivers the misery of day to day reality showcases Bethany’s new found syrupy vocals, proving that she really has done the growing up as a musician that she seemed so keen to express, however if it hadn’t been for the reposeful expression of this melancholy, the obligation of “having to write another song” is enough to paint a picture of sheer reluctance like they’d rather be doing anything else.
If you needed a conclusive persuasion that the new cleaner sound was a step in the right direction, solemnly frank ‘How They Want Me To Be’ is a song more suited to a rainy day than the sunshine whose praises ‘Best Coast’ are usually singing but this is further evidence that Bethany Cosentino really can sing.
The highlight of the album is undoubtedly ‘Do You Still Love Me Like You Used To’ which sits perfectly between sounding like they’re trying too hard and not hard enough, two sides of the pivoting point that some of the other songs seem to just slightly tip over into.
On first impressions, the comparison between the first album and ‘The Only Place’ is that it’s lacklustre and that it doesn’t have the same injection of fun & liveliness that seemed to be a charming product of naivety and youth. The fact that you can’t help but keep subconsciously comparing it to ‘Crazy For You’ is a testament to a near perfect first album, and it seems that pressure of getting it just right a second time round whilst also trying to break out of the lo-fi cat-worshipping bong-shaped box that it pigeonholed them into has resulted in something that feels a lot less free spirited and harder to relate to. Whilst Bethany yearns to be taken more seriously, regrettably the slower tempo and echoes of dreamy vibraphone just feel more bratty than anything. It does take a couple of listens to get into, and the return of ‘Best Coast’ on the music scene is a welcome one indeed, but the sophomore attempt seems to meet more of a general shrugging consensus than rapturous applause. I think I’ll stick to the cats and the weed.