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The Only Place CD
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The Only Place
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“I just want to lose that stoner cat girl label and for people to take me more seriously," said Bethany Cosentino recently. Yes, her band's 2010 debut, Crazy for You, won kudos from music critics, cool kids and even Drew Barrymore, who directed one of its videos. But at the same time, the blogworld got preoccupied with its references to weed and mocked one of Cosentino's less than Joni Mitchell-esque lyrics: "I wish my cat could talk."
Cosentino's also admitted that she tired of hearing the term lo-fi attached to her band's indie-meets-girl-group sound. Consequently, she and bandmate Bobb Bruno have recruited Fiona Apple/Kanye West producer Jon Brion to ensure this follow-up is less ramshackle.
Best Coast still sound like Best Coast, but now they're tidier, shinier and looking us right in the eye. The revelation is the vocals. No longer hiding behind harmonies and production fuzz, Cosentino is a strong and confident singer; she attacks No One Like You like a valley girl Patsy Cline.
The album's hat trick of up-tempo cuts are so infectious they recall The Go-Go's, and it's hard not to wish there were a couple more. But most of The Only Place is mid-tempo, introspective and very candid. Written while Cosentino was processing her transition from a shopgirl to indie pin-up, these songs are filled with inertia, confusion, frustration and homesickness. Sample couplet: "I'm always crying on the phone / Because I know that I'll end up alone."
But despite this self-involved subject matter, and Cosentino's strict adherence to the June/moon/spoon school of songwriting, The Only Place never irritates. Thanks to the sweetness of its melodies, the sheer ear candy of its Cali-pop jangle, and the yearning in those vocals, it's less depressing than wistful – like watching the clouds as the sun fades.
Bethany Cosentino is still figuring out who she is – track titles like Better Girl and How They Want Me to Be practically admit as much. But listening to this musically confident and lyrically unflinching second album, it's clear she's no stoner cat girl. --Nick Levine
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The songs are more polished & catchy. Some of the other reviewers don't like this, but I've listened to the album 6 or 7 times already, and like the 'cleaner' sound, for lack of a better word. The album just simply sounds better produced.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the first album also, but I don't expect that the band is going to release exactly the same sound each time. Bands evolve and I like the direction that Best Coast is heading.
For whatever reason, most of the songs speak to me (I mean, in a figurative, not schizophrenic, way) and couldn't be happier with this album.
Now that this is out of the way, to the actual album itself. When I first heard "The Only Place" title track on SiriusXMU a few months ago I was transfixed. I found it entrancing and a perfect anthem for California, it made me yearn to be there, to be in this wondrous place where life sounded superb, even ideal. I had to have this album the second it came out, and the vinyl arrived at my home on the day of release, allowing me to listen to it with the warm hum it deserves. The album from beginning to end, not just the title track, was an anthem to everything California. Love, Life, Work, Play, everything that makes California the ideal place is brought to fruition by Cosentino's wondrous and original voice.
If you are clinging too much to the lo-fi of Crazy For You, this album will not be good for you, go and pick up Green Day's Kerplunk instead. If you feel that you are ready to allow a band to evolve as they continue to make music, this will be a treat for you.
The Vinyl qulaity was iffy as the first side played well but the second sounded uneven, even warped. The color it came in was white.
NPR's "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me" wanders from my phone's speaker, lazily bouncing waves of "intelligent" humor (to include fart jokes) into my brain, complimenting the delicious aroma of fresh air and coffee, the cool light from the small, open window above me and the warm water that surrounds me.
Sensors indicate a high concentration of awesomeness.
I wander my way through a list of new MP3 albums available from Amazon as I enjoy my bath, and discover a new Best Coast album called "The Only Place."
Best Coast's first album, "Crazy For You," which I discovered in the spring of 2010, became the anthem for what would unfold to become one of the best and worst summers of all time. Summers like that one are repeatedly reminisced and rarely rivaled.
My brain fills with thoughts of buttery harmony, simple melody that haunts your brain for days, simple retro themes of love, heartbreak and felines and a single word that is the auditory equivilant to nirvana: reverb.
I'm unsure if there are words to describe my affection for reverb. Something about it stirs an elemental and animalistic sense of unity, connection to the universe and relative dimensions deep with in me. Can't help it, I was born this way.
While you were jamming to Hammer, Ice and Dre as a young lad or lass, I was tuned to the Beach Boys on Wichita's oldies station, dreaming of a lazy life in California where the only car I could imagine having was a triple-carburated, lake-piped, white-walled, 40s-era Ford "woodie" station wagon with a pair of surf boards steadily poking out the back window.
"Crazy For You" oozes reverb. The wavery sound is as natural as the ocean itself, mimicking the rise and fall of the Pacific's lunar conversation. The effect of this collection of vibrations compares to 4 of my other pet sensory experiences: (If you get the Beach Boys reference here, award yourself with 1,000 cool points)
1. A mouthful of fluffy, buttery and syrupy waffle.
2. The smell of wildflowers on a crisp April morning after a gentle rain shower.
3. The sleek, graceful lines of a 1963 Ford Thunderbird with sparkling chrome and black paint so deep and clear you want to dive into it and bathe in its placid perfection just to mess it up a little bit.
4. The feeling of dipping a hand in fresh Mobile 1 10-30 and running your thumb across your closed fingers.
At my core, I know this sophomore album will never compare to their first, but I am stoked none the less as i punch the "listen to all samples" button.
Thirty seconds into the first song, I notice Best Coast's singer Bethany Cosentino's honey-like voice is too clear and unwavering. The perfection of surf guitar chords, cymbal taps and deep bass notes lacks the echoey sound that is elemental to my attraction to "Crazy For You."
The reverb isn't gone, but used sparingly. My heart aches.
Best Coast retained their talent for producing short, ADHD-friendly songs with fast beats, great harmonies and an unmistakable beach feel, but these songs are too refined.
Don't get me wrong, you can have too much reverb in a song. Just look up any Rockabilly song on Youtube.
"The Only Place" needs more of that only sound effect to put it on par with "Crazy For You." The sloppy lo-fi imperfection of "Crazy For You" was its perfection. "The Only Place's" tighter sound hasn't ruined it by any means, (In fact, I bought the MP3 album right away) but their pursuit of perfection has been their undoing in this instance.
I have no doubt they will sell more records with this cleaner sound, but I also have no doubt that I will love it just a little bit less and wish my phone was equipped with the reverb switch my Uncle's 1966 Bonneville convertible has.
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