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California Nights

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Album Review

Sometimes a band needs to go big or go home. On California Nights, Best Coast go bigger than big and it proves to be exactly the right move. On their previous album, 2013's The Only Place, they made a baby step toward becoming a stadium indie band, but it ended up being more of a misstep. Working with Jon Brion, the duo of Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno cut down on the guitar noise, added some sophistication, and ended up with a tepid album. This time with the help of producer Wally Gagel, they aim for the back row of arenas with a huge sound made up of layers of echoing guitars, drums that boom like cannons, and Cosentino's vocals way out front like they should be. An easy reference point is Hole's Celebrity Skin, when Courtney Love stopped worrying about being real and made a brilliant pop album instead. California Nights is the sound of a band embracing its destiny as a mainstream indie rock band, not a grungy punk duo. It may have worked for them in the past, but becoming a slick, sleek hook-dispensing machine was the only way for them to move ahead. It's true that fans of their early records might find this new approach to be a little too smooth, a little too well-produced, but they aren't trying to make those people happy anymore. They are aiming for fans of bands like Metric and Weezer (or to go back further, Smashing Pumpkins), who play(ed) for the masses, not for bloggers or vinyl fetishists. Most of the album hits a midtempo sweet spot, with the shiny guitars and powerful drums locking together in perfect harmony and Cosentino's more-powerful-than-before vocals sounding great on top. In this new context, her resignedly melancholic, sometimes morose lyrics fit much better; she seems to have smoothed out the rough spots that pretty much ruined The Only Place. This template works really well, but when they deviate from the basics the album really goes in some interesting directions. The title track is anthemic and epic, with Cosentino's soaring vocals and the atmospheric musical backing providing exactly the panoramic setting the song requires. The short and sweet "Fading Fast" is the poppiest song on the record, with handclaps and a super-hooky guitar riff. If it doesn't show up on a commercial at some point, it'll be a shock. The girl group-inspired "Wasted Time," which ends the album on a hazy, bummed-out note, shows that the band can indeed write convincing ballads. They only needed the right sound to make it work. That's the story with the whole album, since Best Coast had seemed to be floundering around trying to figure out their next step. On California Nights, they made a risky choice and it pays off in a big way. They come off assured and confident, fully in control of the songs and the sound in a way they never have before.

Customer Reviews

Finally!

Great band live, can't wait to see them out there promoting this album.

Hmmm

I've been a huge BC fan for years, but this album hasn't yet grown on me yet. California Nights is a great song, Heaven Sent isn't bad, but it sounds a lot like girl rock and is missing a lot of those guitar riffs and sound that makes BC still sound like surfy rock. The Only Place was amazing because a lot of the songs on that album had a surfy sound and reminded me of the CA shores. California Nights just sounds a little too nineties for me and doesn't project me to the beach. I'm bummed so far!

Instantly made me a fan.

I vaguely remember hearing the name Best Coast mentioned in a Jenny Lewis interview a year or so ago and thought I should check them out, but never got around to it.

When "California Nights" appeared in the new releases last month, I listened to a few songs and liked what I heard, so I bought the album on a whim and loved it. This lead me to buying their other albums and EPs and ultimately seeing them live for the first time this past Friday, June 12th.

I honestly can't remember the last time I completely fell in love with band from the get go, but this album made me a fan for life.

Biography

Formed: 2009 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Bethany Cosentino was no stranger to the stage when she began working on recordings with bandmate Bobb Bruno under the name Best Coast in 2009. A former child actress, Cosentino had started writing songs in her teens, and had gained a strong online following by the time she was 17 thanks to a handful of squeaky-clean pop tunes she made available on her MySpace page under the nom de teen pop Bethany Sharayah. "I had interest from major labels," she said in a 2009 interview with PopSense. "And it was...
Full Bio
California Nights, Best Coast
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