“California Nights” Shows Best Coast’s Continuing Growth and Maturity

1 Oct

Autumn has arrived and we’ve even had some rain in the drought-stricken, tinder-dry Bay Area. But for the second week in a row, I’m writing about a band that evokes sun-drenched, summer memories. That’s because Best Coast’s new album, California Nights deserves our attention before we turn to Halloween and the holiday season that’s not far behind.

California Nights sees Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno creating an album of surf music with layers of fuzz, noise and reverb added to create tsunami-sized walls of sound.

The first Best Coast wave broke onto the beach in 2010 with the release of Crazy for You. The duo followed that in 2012 with a more stripped down, The Only Place. On California Nights, the band heads the opposite direction — out into deeper water.

Song lyrics on this album bypass ogling the babes on the beach to examine relationships, everyday challenges and the meaning of life. “What is life/What is love/What’s the meaning of it all?” Cosentino sings. “Do I even care/Or is just that I am so unaware?” This kind of subject matter lends itself to the crunchy guitars and distortion added to the tracks.

The album starts with “Feeling Ok,” a guitar-drenched song that falls somewhere between surf and garage rock. The sound is drenched in fuzz and Cosentino’s vocals soar above the melody like a surfer riding a big wave.

“So Unaware” is a similar pop-rock anthem with Cosentino searching for the meaning of life and love as described in the lyrics above.

“California Nights” is a spectacular, soaring dream-pop song with Cosentino’s amazing vocals reaching up to the heavens as Bruno’s guitars jangle underneath. Cosentino sings, “I stay high all the time/Just to get by,” and this is apparently true if one believes the fan mags.

“Sleep Won’t Ever Come” is a garage-rocker with a catchy melody that showcases Bruno’s precision guitar work and has a ring of truth to the title that Cosentino sings over and over again. One wonders whether the problem is the demands of performing live or if it’s related to the subject she sings about in “California Nights?” Munchies anyone?

While the songs on California Nights have a sameness to them, the complementary set works and demonstrates the continued growth and maturity of Best Coast as one of the stronger names in surf rock.

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