Best Coast: The Only Place


Bethany Cosentino, one half of Los Angeles, CA, indie rock duo Best Coast, is a firm believer in the age-old idiom, “Home is where the heart is.” Based on the cover art of the band’s latest album, The Only Place—which depicts a cartoon bear embracing an outline of California—her heart clearly resides in her home state. The opening title track reiterates this adoration. “Why would you live anywhere else?” she sings enthusiastically, sounding like the antithesis of Alvy Singer, Woody Allen’s New York-obsessed protagonist in Annie Hall. “We’ve got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun, we’ve got the waves/This is the only place for me,” she concludes.

The 25-year-old Cosentino sounds less assured elsewhere on the album. “I don’t know how I feel/I’m all over the place,” she confesses in the plodding “Last Year.” In the infectious “Do You Love Me Like You Used To,” the singer/songwriter laments growing old, potentially dying alone and losing sight of the woman she’s become, admitting, “I don’t remember what it means to be me” toward the end of the track. Fortunately, Cosentino’s confused state of mind doesn’t appear to be debilitating. Despite her numerous insecurities, she remains confident enough to deliver some of the most inspiring vocal performances of her young career. Her voice sounds lively and spirited in the incredibly pleasant “Why I Cry” and seductive in the beguiling “Dreaming My Life Away.” In “No One Like You,” “How They Want Me to Be” and album-closer “Up All Night,” Cosentino’s tenor evokes girl-group icon Ronnie Spector.

Multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno does an admirable job of putting Cosentino’s introspective lyrics to music. As a jack of all trades, Bruno’s musical contributions range from providing clever guitar fills, memorable riffs and simple arpeggios to supplying melodic bass lines and fitting percussion. While the band rarely ventures outside of its early 1960s-inspired garage rock and surf pop formula, The Only Place features enough musical variety to keep the record interesting. In addition to its signature sound, the band fills the album with tracks beholden to the Ronettes and the Supremes (“No One Like You,” “How They Want Me to Be” and “Up All Night”) and the archaic bossa nova genre (“Dreaming My Life Away”). Producer extraordinaire Jon Brion—best known for his work with Fiona Apple, Kanye West and on the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack—deserves at least some of the credit for the record’s musical variety. He’s certainly responsible for the cleaner and richer production; the reverb and lo-fi buzz so prevalent on Best Coast’s debut full-length album, Crazy For You, is more or less absent now. Brion is also likely responsible for the incorporation of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound production technique on standout track “Up All Night,” with its lush orchestration and ancillary percussion.

The Only Place is certainly an enjoyable record, but it’s also quite forgettable. While the band demonstrates maturity in its sound—at least in part thanks to Brion—Bethany Cosentino’s maturation as a lyricist is minimal. She doesn’t sing about pot or her cat so much anymore, but her words read more like a melodramatic teenager’s diary entries than the lyrics of a 25-year-old woman in a successful indie rock outfit. Plus, she’s still inclined to rhyme words like “sun” and “fun” or “phone” and “alone” ad nauseam. Perhaps Best Coast is what we thought they were: an easy, breezy southern California rock band, devoid of much substance or depth and endowed with a refreshing sound. It’s possible that The Only Place becomes the soundtrack to your summer. But like a summer romance, you’ll undoubtedly have moved on to something better by September.

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