Smile Politely

Smoothing it out, but still ripping it up

By the looks of things, you might believe you have this whole Best Coast thing figured out by now. The sunshine lovin’, weed smokin’, lazy lo-fi rock music on the two records they’ve got under their belts might be very similar thematically, but aesthetics would tell you something different. Their records, 2010’s debut Crazy for You and this year’s The Only Place, might feel like they are talking about the same things: a lot of love and broken hearts, summertime joy, and being unapologetically out-of-it most of the time. And these kinds of things pretty much sum up what you’re going to get from Bethany Cosentino & co.

However, it isn’t as shallow as it all sounds. I’ll get to why the two records are cut from the same cloth, but let me tell you when this whole Best Coast thing made more sense to me.

Let’s start from the beginning. Take the track “The Sun Was High (And So Was I)” from one of their early 7’’ releases. Sure, it was under-produced, which, in turn, led me to feel much lazier about giving them the time of day and paying attention to what they were doing. But that was, without a doubt, one of their goals when making their early recordings.

Their strategies aren’t exactly unique, and a band that worked on a similar method (enter: Real Estate) interested me more than a band like Best Coast. Real Estate’s “Beach Comber” did more for me and really hit the nail on the head as far as attitude goes with this type of mixture of lazy summer vibe with indie aesthetic. They sent those same messages that Best Coast sent early on. Tracks like “The Sun Was High” just felt like something that they didn’t really give a shit about, so why should I? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about these types of tunes, but what’s the catch here?

I’ll tell you the catch: Crazy for You. All of it is a catch. All things seemingly changed instantly. Like, before I could even understand why, really.

Crazy for You (left) and The Only Place (right)

Crazy for You tracks like “Boyfriend” and “When the Sun Don’t Shine” and “Our Deal” were on constant repeat. The whole album basically sums up summer. I mean, the cover is a cat on a beach. Indie stoners rejoice — your savior has arrived.

At a strikingly short length, the record doesn’t even break the half hour mark. Regardless, those dozen tracks do the job, and unintentionally accomplished a lot at the same time. We’ve heard records like this before, but it felt like it held more water to me than something like Vivian Girls’ self-titled record from a few years before that, or any of the albums Wavves have put together (sorry Nathan Williams, but your girl might have you beat for now). But that’s enough of me gushing about their first record, because there’s no doubt that The Only Place helped them get to where they are now.

Sophomore slumps can kill a band. The second record has to be the toughest, especially because no one expects you to make something as good as the first collection. The Only Place isn’t a record that’s going to knock you on your ass by any means, but it’s a collection of pretty great straightforward tracks. Cosentino’s croon is undeniable and much more memorable than on Crazy for You. She’s truly front and center with this whole record — now more than ever. That might be where they would catch some flack from critics for moving away from the sound that brought them around in the first place. The dirty guitar work takes a backseat to a different type of relaxation — one that shows off her pretty incredible voice and makes the music feel more sentimental than before. There’s nothing wrong with shedding that blown-out guitar form if you’re making something that’s just as memorable.

The Only Place is highlighted by the title track (above), which basically picks up on the themes of beaches, oceans, babes, the sun, and waves. California is still the place for them, and they don’t let anyone think anything different. I mean, there’s a bear holding the state of California for God’s sake, a direct reference to the old “I Love California” poster.

The charm of the new record lies strictly with the development of her swoon that is much more elegant throughout compared to the previous releases. “How They Want Me to Be”, “No One Like You” and “Dreaming My Life Away” are perfect examples of this, and even “Up All Night”, which is a remake of one of their older live tracks, made a slight transformation before ending up on this record.

As much as I enjoy both of these records, the point isn’t to choose which one is better. They share so many similarities, yet are so completely different that choosing one over the other might not be the exact goal. The tempos and variety stand out to me, even while the lyrical themes and meanings within the songs stay the same. Nasty, growling guitars are something I am very drawn to, and they take up a lot of my listening time, but there is always a place for a crooner in the mix. Costantino has proved herself to be able to write some of the catchiest tunes in indie rock today and clearly is making a habit out of it early in her rock ‘n roll career. The other day I realized it from a friend’s words, “It’s way different, but still pretty damn good.”

We’ll see them in a live setting, where the albums don’t matter as much, but they give us an idea of what we should expect. Like I’ve said, what matters is how the songs match the artists’ identity. This band has an identity, and they’ve been sticking to it since the get go.

This crew has made itself into a four-piece now, performing all over the place, and even touring with (*gulp*) Green Day in the upcoming months. They are growing like never before, but there’s definitely a reason why that’s happening. They just have to stick to their guns.

Best Coast will headline Friday night’s set of late shows for Pygmalion at The Canopy Club, joined by Laetitia Sadier, Lord Huron, Hospitality and many others. Get your tickets here.

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