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Best Coast, ‘The Only Place’ — Album Review

Best Coast
Mexican Summer

To call anything about ‘The Only Place’ new would be generous. To call Bethany Cosentino’s lyrics thought-provoking would be generous. To call Best Coast‘s second studio album interesting would be absurd — though it is fun.

When Best Coast — that’s Cosentino, who works most often with multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno — released  ’Crazy for You’ in 2009, it was a ray of sunshine. Best Coast’s sophomore album barely expands on that photon-loaded aesthetic. The cover has switched out a cute cat (at a beach) for a cute bear (holding California). Cosentino has made similar sideways progress in her songwriting: easy peasy rhymes abound, as do Golden State-sized choruses, as do pinings after a boy, as do hurt, breakup-y feeling shares. Like the last record, Best Coast’s 2012 album is simple, simple, simple. If you want something more, go somewhere else. Probably away from California.

And boy, does Cosentino love her California. In the titular opener ‘The Only Place,’ Cosentino declares her love for the Golden State by way of what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation: “We were born with sun in our teeth and in our hair / When we get bored, we like to sit around, sit around and stare /ARat the mountains, at the birds, at the ocean, at the trees.” Evidently, there’s lots of nice scenery in California and the people have lots of fun. This is the extent of ‘The Only Place’: Expect lots of direct commentary on what Cosentino’s seeing and feeling.

That’s not to say that there isn’t anything new under the sun. She’s brought in producer Job Brion (Fiona Apple, Of Montreal), whose presence adds a bit of depth to the album’s sound. Cosentino expands her songwriting most as she dips into old-time country on tracks like ‘Dreaming My Life Away’ and ‘No One Like You.’ Her wounded, sun bleached voice fits the genre’s aches well, as does the paint-by-numbers lyricism. While her voice is a lovely instrument, the language it expresses is too often inexcusable. No professional songwriter should be rhyming girl with world.

That simplicity, naiveté, innocence, or vapidity — whatever you want to call it — works in Cosentino’s favor when she’s at her most silly and earnest, like on residence-praise ‘Let’s Go Home.’ Even the grouchiest of grumps would sing along with the wish to not “be anywhere else but home.” This lyrical, emotional, and musical directness is Best Coast’s greatest strength as well as weakness. ‘The Only Place’ is unapologetically pop, and while pleasant, there’s not a lot of here to appreciate, besides all that sun.

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