Bethany Cosentino won my heart a couple of years ago when, during an outdoor concert in the pouring rain, she looked at us miserably before saying what we were thinking: “this fucking sucks”. The quintessential new California girl nailed what was in her heart once again, a a sort of super downer downbeat dislocation.
Bethany is a mix of youthful fadedness and a sort of bemused growing up. If Best Coast’s debut Crazy For You, was lo fi sunny pop love mantras, and album two The Only Place was downbeat, curtains closed post success bummer, then album # 3 California Nights, finds Bethany navigating between being OK with love, fine with losing it and sudden devastations and triumphs on both sides of the equation, orchestrated into wall of sounds jangle indie rock.
All three albums are terrific, but California Nights is that and more: without a duff moment in its entire 43 minutes, these are quietly loud songs of personal observations, so revealing they sound like diary entries, as if the band were in the business of feelings like they were streaming their heart. Whether droning on”Sleep Won’t Come To Me”, or pop strung outing on “When Will I Change”, the songs are solid and sweet, self-deflation but self-awareness, universal and very very to the person. They are like the anti-Isbell, there is no distance between singer and song, at the very heart of this terrific album is the absolute awareness that this is that: it might be entertainment but it is entertainment as self analyzation.
On the first three songs, we go from being okay with a romance, to being fine with a break up, to adoring the one she’s with, and the album as a whole exactly mirrors this, each song taking and replacing a romantic fulcrum; the music, meanwhile, is a complement, dark evening glow and warm, with only the occasional breeze. Bobb Bruno, the other half of Best Coast, makes his presence felt like never before, from the psychedelic title track to the Byrdsy zooming in and out meets fuzztoned “In My Eyes”, the guitars are major laid and major layering sonic pleasure zones; the solos, when they occur, are brief till you wonder if you heard them at all: a 30 second fade out here, a catch it as it comes tilt at wounds there. All of which are in aid of the song and in aid of Cosentino.
Bethany told Rolling Stone “I was a very awkward, confused girl. Now I’m 28, and I’m still awkward and confused — but I think I’ve pulled it together a little better.” That’s a good description of this album, and if the lyrics are prosaic and plain, they are direct and explanatory, “I’ll never understand you now” “Sleep won’t ever come”, “I know it’s hard to understand but you’ve got to let it go, “. It only works when sung.
The album barely peaks and never dips, unlike the first two albums weed isn’t an essential character in the stories; she seems a little less dependent on artificial paranoia. Instead, there’s a snapshot of a woman nearing her thirties and running in place in the California days and California nights as her youth slips by and that is as close to be precisely what Best Coast want it to be. The daze and haze of California in the warmth of the night time sun.
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