Review: Best Coast – The Only Place

9 Jul

When Best Coast released their debut album, Crazy For You, Bethany Coesentino was hailed as a woman to keep your eye on. Now, she seems to be molded after a sort of one hit wonder more than this generation’s leading lady.

With the May release of their sophomore album, The Only Place, Coesentino & Co. seemed dead set on reminding us all that they’re from California. As if that were ever in jeopardy of being forgotten.

In a nutshell, The Only Place is merely a grown-up, less colorful, polished version of Crazy For You.

Starting with the album art, The Only Place (seen above) definitely carries on the tradition of animals, maps and California being used to really give the listener a vibe of the band before they even hear the album. The same tactics were used with Crazy For You, and it’s starting to seem like Coesentino has a one-track mind when it comes to her, er, art.

When Best Coast announced that The Only Place was in the process of being recorded, everyone wondered what the group was going to sound like. After all, drummer Ali Koehler announced she was no longer with the band right before Coesentino revealed that she would like to embrace her country side on the new tracks, with inspiration coming from the likes of Loretta Lynn. Then it was announced that famed composer and producer, Jon Brion, would be behind the wheel of the project.

But even with Brion’s help, Best Coast proved nothing on The Only Place, other than the fact that they might want to consider renaming themselves “One Trick Pony.”

You see, the problem with this album is not that the songs aren’t good – most of them are pretty catchy. The problem is that they sound so much like the tracks off of Crazy For You, they’re actually hard to listen to.

The album opens with the title track, which sounds like something the Governor of California commissioned Best Coast to write for a commercial campaign to attract tourists. While the sentiments are understood (California is a wonderful, magical place), it’s hard to want to dive head-first into the album. First impressions really are hard to shake.

The following track, “Why I Cry,” sounds like melodies and chord progressions were copy and pasted from Crazy’s “Happy” and “Goodbye.” This same pattern follows with tracks like “Do You Love Me Like You Used To” and “Let’s Go Home.” Really, you can’t listen to any track on the album without being immediately reminded of one from Crazy.

Coesentino told to Pitchfork that The Only Place is “more about self-discovery and figuring out who she is.”

Crazy for You was written in a very insecure, weird, 22-year old phase in my life,” she said. “I’m 25 now, and things in my life are much, much different than they were then. This record is really personal.”

Unfortunately, it’s hard to hear this album and not wonder what Brion, Coesentino and guitarist Bobb Bruno were listening to when they put the finishing touches on the album. Even the lyrical content of the songs haven’t evolved past that first album any more than the songwriting has. And while there’s nothing wrong with a brutally honest or even vulnerable track, building a career off of songs that read like a boy crazy teen’s diary isn’t something to aspire for.

But all hope isn’t lost. When push comes to shove, Best Coast still has talent behind the name. Albeit misplaced, they truly are talented. Hopefully we can chalk this off another sophomore slump, and the duo really does some growing for their next release to make up for lost time. If not, well, there’s always their first album.

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