Best Coast – The Only Place
by Allison Walker (Journalism/Cinema Studies), published May 18th 2012
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Best Coast goes a little deeper than sunshine, weed and a beloved cat in their second album, The Only Place. Bethany Consentino and Bobb Bruno were burdened with high expectations after the release of their first album, Crazy For You, and in their sophomore album, they have attempted to change the perception of their music. This includes taking away some of the deliberate grunginess that Best Coast fans adored. However, the slight changes have resulted in a more honest approach to music that some fans will either welcome or toss to the curb. The production of this album doesn’t hide behind any fuzziness, but instead, looks you straight in the eyes and tells you what Bethany is feeling.
Notable record producer and composer, Jon Brion (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind/Of Montreal/Kanye West), was recruited for The Only Place and it’s evident that he has helped Best Coast maximize their sound. The album kicks off with “The Only Place” in which Consentino’s voice is noticeably more powerful and the instruments are similarly smoother. The opener is the happiest of the collection as well as homage to California – as if the album cover isn’t enough PDA. “Why would you live anywhere else?” Consentino asks.
The rest of the album takes on a much darker spirit. The second track, “Why I Cry”, has bouncy beats and assertive vocals that are ridden with hopelessness but come off a bit winey. The utilization of simplistic lyricism isn’t abandoned in this album, but Consentino definitely takes a bolder approach to story telling. In the quintessentially short but sweet ballad, “My Life”, she sings, “My mom was right/I don’t wanna die/I wanna live my life.” The charming melodies serve as a contrast to a song about reliance on drugs and the desire to turn back time.
In “No One Like You”, the album’s mid-tempo pace is taken down a few notches and given the vibe of a ’50s slow dance and “Dreaming My Life Away” seizes upon hushed instrumentation.
The true insecurity and loneliness that is threaded in the foundation of The Only Place is heightened in two particular tracks. “How They Want Me To Be” expresses it through droning background vocals and a mostly monotone melody. “Better Girl” introduces more of an enjoyable, folky guitar and is fueled by seclusion and reputation uncertainties.
My favorite track and the closer of The Only Place is “Up All Night.” It’s another slow paced song that feeds off of Bethany’s Joni Mitchell-esq pitches. A dreamy longing for love is slowly built up to instrumental and vocal intensity that includes moving orchestral accompaniment (cue Brion.) For a second I thought I saw myself running in slow motion towards someone I was desperately in love with at the other end of a field of daisies. Ah, the power of music.
In multiple interviews after Crazy For You’s release, Bethany Constenio was insistent on Best Coast steering away from their lo-fi, surf rock trademark and her “cat loving stoner” reputation. For some, those qualities were what made Best Coast, well… Best Coast. As a result, the lo-fi crackling was turned down, the overall tempo was slowed and Bethany revealed some of her darker, innermost thoughts in The Only Place. Some songs fall flat under this influence while others bring Bethany’s vision to life.
Recommended Tracks: Up All Night, Better Girl, Do You Still Love Me