The Only Place
Who would have thought that one of the summer’s most bummer albums would come from Best Coast? When Bethany Cosentino’s beach-pop band emerged with 2010’s “Crazy For You,” the only thing keeping her from being the year’s most bright-eyed newcomer was that her eyes were too bloodshot from smoking so much weed. Cosentino’s formula was supremely simple — fuzzy guitars, tales of slacker romance — and the results were sometimes frustratingly naive but mostly endearing.
Apparently, becoming an indie superstar turned fashion designer and Drew Barrymore pal isn’t all fun and sun. (Although those two words make a combined eight appearances on the title track and are used in tandem many more times throughout the album’s 10 other songs.)
Cosentino’s rhyming dictionary remains wholly unsophisticated, and the range of emotions isn’t that much broader, but on “The Only Place,” her sadness is compelling. “You gotta keep me away from what they say about me / Cause I want to be a better girl,” she sings on “Better Girl,” addressing the backlash that turned her from Internet favorite to punch line. On the previous song, she moans, “I don’t want to be how they want me to be” with the conviction of someone who has stayed up until 4 a.m., thinking that lone thought.
That moan is part of what makes “The Only Place” so listenable. Cosentino no longer hides behind distortion and reverb, but her songs happily remain straightforward in both structure and style — sparkling three-minute verse / chorus romps with some well-placed Phil Spector flourishes. But the downtrodden lyrics contradict Cosentino’s newly confident voice, which has been upgraded from pothead whine to Valley girl Patsy Cline. Her singing is clear and purposeful, giving authority to her own discontent.
Cosentino used to sound like all she needed was another joint to keep the buzz going, but when she sings, “I’m still here, I’m still alone / I’m still awake, I’m still afraid” on album closer “Up All Night,” it seems like what she needs most now is a hug.
Best Coast will perform July 14 at 9:30 Club.
— David Malitz
“Up All Night,” “Better Girl,” “The Only Place”