Beginning in mid-May, I began attempting with a certain difficulty to derive some of Best Coast’s signature sunshine from their sophomore album, The Only Place. Unfortunately, I have yet to be successful in this feat.
With their bright, jangly guitars and sun drenched melodic vocals, singer/song-writer, Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno created a stoner-surfer/beach-bum persona for themselves with their 2010 debut album, Crazy for You. The simplicity of their lyrics worked; the filler “oohs” were commonplace alongside lazy lyrics devoted to fun, self-indulgence and Consentino’s cat, Snacks. But an artists’ second release is about maturation and expansion; unfortunately, The Only Place is lacking in both areas.
Credit is due to the band for cleaning up the sloppiness and ditching the fuzzy, Lo-Fi sound of their first album in the way of growth. Acclaimed West Coast producer, Jon Brion helped identify a slower sound without the fuzz in order to fully appreciate Bruno’s pristine guitars and Consentino’s charm. Through the clear, determined sound emerged Consentino’s beautiful vocal range front and center. But stripping away the reverb also left nowhere for the weak songwriting to hide.
Best Coast hit the ground running with the first and title track on the album “The Only Place. Their improved, tidy sound was immediately noticeable and the California sun radiated from the lyrics: “We’ve got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun, we’ve got the waves…” This track was enticing- will this be a polished Crazy for You or do we have additional improvements to look forward to? Ideally, ripened lyrics to accompany the new translucent sound would have followed, but I was mislead with the very first track. The first track’s final lyric, “This is the only place for me” was followed up with “I look to the future, nothing’s there / I don’t know why I even care,” on the albums second track “Why I Cry”.
Slowly, awareness set in: This isn’t the Best Coast I knew before. The album title, the first track even the playfulness of the album cover, that is Best Coast I know, but the subsequent tracks were unexpectedly unfamiliar.
Consentino’s underdeveloped song-writing was acceptable, even acclaimed on two minute beach bum songs, but two minutes of poorly composed complaining isn’t either of those things. It is the same sad story song after song, lyric after lyric on the remainder of the album. Moving away from the previous atmospherical lyrics of Crazy for You and onto the depth of feelings should be a sign of growth, but the lyrics come off as a privileged Californian whining, rather than brooding or yearning in a charming, relateable way. The filler “oohs” become lazy, rather than commonplace and the repetition quickly becomes frustrating, save one loaded lyric probably one of Consentino’s best after two album’s worth of lyrics “What a year this day has been, what a day this year has been,” crooned perfectly alongside heavy guitars on “Last Year”.
While it is apparent and important that Best Coast desires to progress their sound, The Only Place comes up short. But it is not difficult to listen to or unbearable by any means. Certainly, this album would suffice as background music at a pool party as Consentino did an acceptable job of wrapping her woeful whining into a luminous, colorful package. However, if it is defining summer anthems you’re looking for, I’d suggest looking elsewhere.
-Amanda “The Bearded Lady” Best