December 24, 2015 Best Coast – California Nights (Album Review)
Formed in 2009, in California, United States, Best Coast is the duo Bethany Cosentino (vocals, guitars, songwriting) and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno. To date, Best Coast has released three full-length albums – Crazy for You (2010), The Only Place (2012), and California Nights (2015). Whereas the songs in the debut release are edgier, fuzzier, darker, and urgent (“Boyfriend,” “Summer Mood,” “Honey,” “Each and Everyday”), those in its follow-up (“My Life,” “No One like You,” “How They Want Me to Be,” “Do You Love Me Like You Used To”) are more relaxed, more polished, and cleaner-sounding. A casual listener may think that this marked change in the sonic quality of the duo’s music was caused by their having catapulted to relative commercial popularity in the recent years. However, to the initiated, this transition is nothing but a natural sonic progression brought about by more conducive songwriting environment, better recording studios, and veteran producers and sound engineers that all have become accessible and affordable to any band like Best Coast that has achieved financial capability as a result of their breakthrough.
Besides, anyone who has listened to all three albums with a keen sense of detail would not really notice significant changes in terms of stylistic direction. The change, for the better, involves only the production quality. This proves that Best Coast has, early on, already developed its trademark sound and a musically focused direction. Albeit, to cite certain sonic influences is inevitable; in Best Coast’s music, an initiated music fan may hear the ’60s-rooted sugary Pop Punk sensibilities of The Ramones (“Bye Bye, Baby”), Elastica (“Stutter”), Belly (“Feed the Tree”), and Veruca Salt (“Seether”), as well as the ’80s New Wave mellifluousness and upbeatness of The Go-Go’s (“Vacation”) and The Flirts (“Jukebox [Don’t Put Another Dime]”). With Best Coast’s latest release, the sonic styling remains the same – the Pop Punk tendencies and the New Wave sensibilities are all there, owing to the angular and melodic guitar works, the steady basslines, the female vocals, and the big drum sound. The only change worth highlighting is that the production quality of the songs became so much better.
Released on May 1, 2015, California Nights is Best Coast’s latest, third album. It opens with the catchy punch of the stomper “Feeling Ok,” which has a whiff of Suede’s “New Generation,” The Tears’ “Lovers,” and The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today.” The gear shifts higher with the ensuing hyperdrive songs “Fine Without You” and “Heaven Sent.” In the ensuing “In My Eyes” and “So Unaware,” the tempo relaxed a bit, but the guitar overdrive remains deliciously relentless and the respective melodies are as memorable as ever. Best Coast’s penchant for infectious hooks is certainly unstoppable, as displayed all throughout the following “When Will I Change,” which evokes an image of Debbie Harry’s singing her band Blondie’s song “Dreaming.”
Then there is “Jealousy,” whose choppy guitar rhythm and cascading basslines will certainly induce toe-tapping and finger-snapping. The title track is a slow shoegazey affair – fuzzy and shimmery in equal measures; one may think in terms of Catherine Wheel (“I Want to Touch You”) and Chapterhouse (“Something More”). The vibe turns cheery with the short mid-tempo “Fading Fast,” and then another dancefloor-worthy Guitar Pop track plays next, “Run Through My Head.” Near the end of the album is the introspective, sparkly “Sleep Won’t Ever Come,” whose bright guitar arpeggios and Doo-Wop-inspired backing vocals invoke sonic images of ’60s female-fronted Pop bands. Finally, California Nights closes aptly with the slow, synth-drenched, and timpani-flavored balladry of “Wasted Time.”
The contemporary Indie Pop music scene is, as always, flourishing with young-blooded purveyors. Best Coast is one of these, alongside fellow proud wavers of the genre such as American Authors, Broods, Echosmith, Neon Trees, and Wavves. With California Nights, Best Coast has once again proven that they are worthy to be regarded as one of the newer heirs of the genre in which the duo’s music happily swims. CrypticRock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.