Best Coast – Crazy For You (2010)
Total Score: 74 / Solid Gold: 67%
For anyone in the business of making mixtapes to pop into your car stereo while driving through beach traffic, 2010 is really your year. These days its more difficult to find a new indie release that doesn’t fit this description. Whether chillwavers or garage rock revivalists, everybody and their mom seems keen to put out summer releases celebrating marijuana, saltwater, and sunshine this year — and no proponents of the scene take on this task more straightforwardly than Best Coast. Following a slew of EPs and 7inches, Bethany Cosantino and company have finally released their highly-anticipated debut LP Crazy For You, and it marks a considerable change in sound for the group.
Much like fellow beach-loving potheads Wavves, in 2010 Best Coast have made a clear shift away from the feedback-heavy lo-fi aesthetic that helped to define their sound on releases like Where the Boys Are and the Art Fag 7inch. But unlike Wavves, who tried to balance cleaner production with thick levels of vocal distortion and amplifier gain to retain some of their dirtiness on their 2010 LP King of the Beach, Best Coast all but throws away this aesthetic on Crazy For You, maintaining the wash element of previous releases with ample use of reverb but doing it all without the scratchy fuzz. This is not to say that the cleaner production sound doesn’t suit their ultra-poppy style, but the dichotomy of Cosantino’s bubblegum songwriting and screeching amps was one of the more compelling elements of the band that first started drawing audience’s attention last summer.
Nevertheless, Best Coast have put together one of the most consistent records of the beach-enthusiast indie community, streamlining their sound on Crazy For You into a pretty little pop package, fresh and vacuum sealed, as satisfying and euphoric as a pickup from your local LA medicinal outlet. The greatest asset Cosantino has to offer with Best Coast is her impeccable songwriting, putting together assemblages of power chords that would make Rivers Cuomo jealous, at times sounding like a ditzy teenage girl channeling Kurt Cobain. Cosantino’s sunny vocals and distorted guitar take center stage on the record while the drum work is somewhat subdued, simple beats leveled lower in the mix. As a result, it’s a little frustrating listening to the record while knowing Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler has recently joined the band (after Crazy For You was recorded), and this fact may leave you fantasizing about how Koehler’s loud and energetic drumming style is sure to kick these songs up a notch as Best Coast tour this summer. Stylistically the two bands make a good match — in fact Best Coast can come off as a kind of little sister band to a group like Vivian Girls, the little sister who was skipping class to smoke weed and make out with boys on Ocean Avenue, while big sis was getting into drunken bar fights in Silver Lake. Without Koehler the duo is hardly without a paddle, however, as multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno — who plays everything on Crazy For You that isn’t Cosantino’s guitar — does a standout job placing Cosantino’s songs within the proper context of bass and drums, perfecting the beach-bum vibe with every production reeking of skunk-weed and surf wax.
The straightforward nature of Cosantino’s songwriting may be one of her greatest strengths, but it can reach a point on Crazy For You where simple crosses into the range of stupid. Fun and catchy melodies aside, sticklers for lyrical prowess would do best to ignore this one completely. Out of the thirteen tracks on Crazy For You, a whopping ten of them are essentially about missing a boy and waiting for him to come home — and she’s usually waiting “home alone” and “by the phone”. In four different songs Cosantino sings, “I love you”, in four she sings “I miss you”, and in four she sings “I want you”, repeating the lines again and again. When she’s not rhyming home and phone, it’s “miss you/kiss you”, “love/stars above’, “lazy/crazy”, or “mine/all the time”. If the record was a book of poetry it would probably be the most uninspired collection ever published. As a result, listening through the album can feel like a one-note experience at times, but thankfully variations in tempo and structure from track to track make up for the stagnancy in mood and meaning — and rarely is their a break from the consistent strength of hooks and melodic structure. Just when you’re getting tired of Cosantino complaining about her “empty bed” and feeling “crazy”, a juggernaut of a track like “I Want To” comes on, and you couldn’t care less that the hypnotic slow-jammer features only three lines – “I want you so much”, “I miss you so much”, and “I want to go back to the first time, the first place” – repeated over and over in Cosantino’s positively beautiful and emotive drone, encased in dreamy reverb.
While fans of noise may be disappointed with the new direction Best Coast takes on Crazy For You, the band makes a strong case for their new aesthetic on the record, putting together a collection of bubbly pop songs as catchy and endearing as any other 2010 release so far. On this album, Best Coast have not only reintroduced themselves to the world, but etched their specific place in the ever-broadening scope of beach-inspired indie music.
Killer – “I Want To”, “Goodbye”, “Boyfriend”
Filler – “Honey”, “Summer Mood”