Monday, July 12, 2010

"We're Not Above Reviewing Leaks": Best Coast - Crazy For You

As Best Coast, Bethany Cosentino--with the help of Bobb Bruno--has quickly established a reputation for crafting sunny, infectious lo-fi pop gems like last year's wonderfully playful "When I'm With You." On Best Coast's debut long player, the aptly titled Crazy For You Cosentino pushes the Best Coast conceit--vaguely retro sounding beach pop about relationships--as far as it can go without breaking, while serving up some of the shiniest, most polished songs of the group's still young career. The biggest concern one has with Best Coast is that Cosentino's songs sound a little bland on paper--the album is another hazy summery album in a long line of the same, featuring nothing but lyrics about relationships, mostly failed. To make matters worse, Cosentino isn't just singing about relationships gone wrong, she's singing about relationships in what seems like a very juvenile manner, and that's where listener patience might stretch to its limits. How many ways can a gal really say "I miss you," before it all starts to sound the same?

Despite all these potential missteps, after a handful of listens, something funny happens--overly familiar lines like "I miss you, so much" fade into the background as creepier, more desperate lines like, "I want to go back to/the first time, the first place" bubble up to the surface. The trite surface sentiment, "I wish he was my boyfriend," from album opener "Boyfriend," gives way to the co-dependent creep-fest "Crazy for You," in which Cosentino sings such uncomfortable gems as, "I can't do anything without you/I can't do anything with you," and "I want to hit you but then I kiss you/I want to kill you but then I'd miss you." What begins to emerge from beneath the album's sugary facade is that Cosentino's songs aren't just typical pop songs about heartache, there's something darker and more desperate at work.

The desperation in Cosentino's songs is most apparent through her preoccupation with nostalgia. More than one song on Crazy For You invokes the ever popular age of seventeen: on "Boyfriend," Cosentino sings, "I dropped out when I was seventeen"; on "Each & Everyday," it's "I wish we could go back to when I was seventeen/and I wouldn't, wouldn't, wouldn't, wouldn't, wouldn't have been so mean," both marking that year as a turning point to be revisited. In a way, Cosentino isn't doing anything that hordes of indie pop dudes haven't been doing for years--think The Promise Ring--but rather than obscuring the nostalgia in obtuse turns of phrase, she owns the nostalgia resulting in an uneasier, sadder, but also more entertaining end product. Indeed, not only are the songs written from remarkably honest points of view, but they are also full of quirky humor be it an offhanded reference to how a character "freaks when she gets high," or another's list of complaints ending with a non-sequitor: "I lost my job/I miss my mom/I wish my cat could talk." Cosentino's real achievement with the songwriting on Crazy For You, it turns out, is her ability to make the songs sound simpler and easier than they are. Inside every whispy complaint exists an ocean of neurosis--less "Breaking Up is Hard To Do," than "The One I Love," or "Every Breath You Take".

But of course, the lyrics don't even matter if this album doesn't sound good, and sound good it does. The summery production is spot on, and every song is built on killer melodies and strong hooks. The only thing really holding Crazy For You back, and it's just a little, is that, after a spell, the songs start to sound the same. One wonders what a couple of stripped down songs, or some more outside-the-box production techniques sprinkled throughout might have brought to this album. Maybe some more of those lo-fi textures and and hints of shit-gaze aesthetic from Best Coast's earlier releases might have given the album just the right balance to keep listeners grounded in each song. That being said, while Crazy For You is a bit too easy of an album in which to get lost, it also illustrates that the key to Best Coast's disaffected energy and good-times vibe has more to do with Cosentino's songwriting than some might have expected.

Best Coast' Crazy For You is available 7/27 on Mexican Summer. Also, you can hear a stream of the whole album here...

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