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Design By Humans
Published On: Thu, May 28th, 2015

Best Coast: California Nights

best coastBest Coast
California Nights
(Harvest Records)

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Best Coast’s debut album, Crazy For You, was a small, low-budget album with a lot of charm. It’s like Kevin Smith’s Clerks; you couldn’t help but like it despite its rough edges. In fact those rough edges might’ve been what you liked about it. In that way, California Nights is like Clerks 2; it’s brighter and shinier and there’s a lot more money going around, but there aren’t a ton of new ideas. The big time production values aim to make these songs sound like they can compete on the radio, but it makes them barely distinguishable. The guitars sound awesome, but there’s almost no change in tone. The drums are massive, but devoid of character. On Crazy For You, reverb and harmonies were used to make it sound like some lost 60’s pop album. Here, they sound like they are echoing over a huge arena. It’s fine to have lofty ambitions, but the band seems to feel, perhaps rightly, that the way to achieve mass appeal is by being as generic as possible. Their lyrics were always pretty simple, but when Bethany Cosentino sang, “I wish he was my boyfriend/I’d love him till the very end/But instead he is just a friend,” the simplicity made it come across as a universally relatable feeling. When she sings, “Today I know I feel ok/ Baby look at me with those eyes of grey” on California Nights’ opening track, “Feeling OK,” it feels like she just couldn’t think of anything better to write.

A couple songs stand out in a positive way simply by being slightly different than the others. “When Will I Change,” has an old school lick that makes it sound like an old girl group, or old Best Coast. The guitars and handclaps of “Fading Fast” give it a cool ’70s AM radio feel, and I’m not even really a fan of that kind of music, but it’s so refreshing because at least this song has its own personality. Otherwise, it’s mostly a homogenized mass of arena-pop. To use another movie metaphor, on California Nights Best Coast have become Stepford Wife versions of themselves. On the outside they appear perfect, but something is missing.

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Best Coast: California Nights