Record review: Best Coast – California Nights (2015, LP)

best coast

IT might sound like the most predictably-named album of 2015, but Best Coast’s third record contains much more than the sunny, bubblegum indie-rock that might be expected from the Los Angeles duo. Singer, guitarist and songwriter Bethany Cosentino has called this the first record she’s been 100% happy with, and she’s right to feel proud of a piece of work that drags her band’s sound into a sonic territory more of its own.

Early-twenties stoner naiveté has made way for late-twenties reality confrontation for Cosentino since her 2010 debut, and while some of the themes remain the same as on previous work, here the hooks are heavier and more generously dispersed throughout an album of nineties alt-rock guitar distortion and big choruses.

Opener ‘Feeling Ok’ sees her less making a statement, more trying to convince herself that she is, in fact, feeling okay, in a shoegaze-cum-pop union that is perhaps as clean and professional-sounding as the band has ever been. ‘Fine Without You’ continues the self-denial set to indie-pop hooks and single ‘Heaven Sent’ is the most obviously radio-friendly, festival-set-closing rocker on the record.

Lines like “I stay high all the time, just to get by” provide darker moments on the title track, which, at over five minutes is the longest on any Best Coast album, and introspective closer ‘Wasted Time’ is a similar counterpoint to the surf and garage-rock riffs that fizz elsewhere.

The most appealing aspect of California Nights is Cosentino’s emotive delivery and believability, and although some of the bad/sad/glad rhyming is predictable, when everything’s bigger, brasher and built to bop like the figurative blitzkrieg, a lack of lyrical prowess can be forgiven. This is Best Coast’s best work to date.

CALIFORNIA NIGHTS IS OUT NOW.

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