New Dig: Best Coast (photo by Janell Shirtcliff)
Over the course of two albums, 2010’s Crazy For You and 2012’s The Only Place, the Los Angeles duo Best Coast has gently filtered California sunshine into their songs, dipping their toes into the surf of brightly-hued and engaging indie rock. Singer and guitarist Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno have surfaced this spring with a third album, California Nights, which shifts the light to dusk, exploring the risk and romance of Los Angeles after dark.
The laidback vibe of opener “Feeling Ok” sets the tone of the entire album. It’s a guitar-drenched slice of power pop that lyrically strives for positivity, but doesn’t set its expectations too high. Rather than feeling “great,” the song declares that “okay” will do just fine. It’s this mindset that permeates California Nights.
On the surface, the music reflects the sun-kissed way of life that is—even at night—always associated with southern California. But Cosentino’s lyrics dwell in places that aren’t in plain sight. Under the cover of late night, she delves into the emotions that fester underneath what appears to be an ideal situation; not everything is as it appears by day. Her songs thrive after the sun has set, when feelings of loneliness, confusion, and sadness take hold.
Ultimately, nothing can disguise these feelings. The rocker “In My Eyes” touches on that hard reality as Cosentino sings: “I look to the sun, know I can’t run from my cares.” It’s a message that’s straightforward and to the point. “Jealousy” comments on the undertow that leads to resentment and dislike. Cosentino’s personal meditations are common themes, but thanks to her direct and pointed lyrics, she avoids diluting those messages or sugarcoating her sentiments.
Best Coast draws largely on the guitar-driven sound of ‘90s alternative rock on California Nights. One can hear the influence of Blondie, as well as contemporaries like Jenny Lewis or Neko Case. Occasionally, the album even adds hints of grunge, as on “Heaven Sent.” Wally Gagel, who also helmed Best Coast’s 2013 EP Fade Away, produced the album.
With California Nights, Best Coast’s Cosentino and Bruno have made an album might flaunt its Los Angeles roots, but deliberately strays from a mere sun-and-fun vibe; there’s a far darker and thoughtful cast to the City of Angels at night.