Album Review: Best Coast – ‘The Only Place’

Posted: 21/05/2012 in Uncategorized

As published on Entertainment.ie on May 21st 2012

Best Coast charmed many with their brand of lo-fi garage-rock on much heralded 2010 debut album Crazy For You. It was a simple formula – the reverb-soaked vocals of Bethany Cosentino detailing matters of the heart from crushes to breakups and everything romantic in between, against a fuzzy musical backdrop which took its calling from 1960s surf-pop. Laid-back, raw, and rather rough around the edges – it was and still is an endearing record, the sound of summer love encapsulated in those 13 tracks. Best Coast return with their second album release on Wichita Records, The Only Place, in a bid to soundtrack our summer all over again. It’s everything you’d expect – except that the fuzz has been scraped away, and slick production is the name of the game this time around.

Title track and lead single is ‘The Only Place’ – this three minute advertisement for The Golden State is a playful slice of indie-pop which will have the Californian equivalent of Bord Fáilte absolutely delighted. ‘We’ve got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun, we’ve got the waves’ – sure why would you live anywhere else, muses Cosentino? The Beach Boys would be SO proud. ‘Why I Cry’ is crafted in a very similar sundrenched pop-rock vein – it emerges very early on with this album that there’s not gonna be much in terms of variety. To say that all the songs sound alike may seem lazy and clichéd – but really, they do. ‘Let’s Go Home’ is like an alternative take on the title track in a slightly different key; whilst ‘How They Want Me To Be’ and ‘Up All Night’ could well be one of the same – although the strings flourishes on the latter do impress. ‘No One Like You’ is the slow-set at prom, the lovelorn tale of a gal at the pining stage of a break up – again Best Coast milking the bejaysus out of that tired emotive ‘C to A to F then back to G’ bass-driven melody. ‘Dreaming My Life Away’ proves the standout track, its percussive diversity is refreshing and sets it apart.

The Only Place seems to be in a constant state of taxiing down the runway without ever achieving lift-off. Cosentino’s ‘Dear Diary…’ approach to songwriting is still prominent, but what once seemed like blissfully stoned sentiments now seem lacklustre and vacant – if she doesn’t sound like she believes what she’s singing, then why should we? It’s by no means all bad, and the basic Best Coast formula remains strong – this may well be the half-baked sound of a band in transition, but the polished production values have been brought to the fore at the expense of all of the ramshackle charm that made their debut so very endearing.

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