Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Album Review: Best Coast's 'Crazy For You'

By Daniel Grant

Album Review: Crazy for YouBest Coast

The best thing about Crazy for You, the debut album from El Lay beach popsters Best Coast, is that these songs could have been written anytime over the past 45 years. With echoes of everything from Phil Spector to Pet Sounds to the Go-Go’s, these are timeless little pop gems that don’t deal with anything much heavier than dreaming of the perfect boy, the perfect wave, the perfect day and the perfect jay. With a noted lack of irony or posturing, Best Coast still manages to sound current even when singing lyrics about “waiting by the phone” (don’t people just carry their phones around in their pockets these days?).

The secret behind Best Coast’s ability to avoid sounding like some sort of revival band is the authentic emotion with which Bethany Cosentino infuses her sun-drenched tunes. Crazy for You is a great summer record, made for driving the freeways and lying on the sand. It’s hard to imagine this album coming from anywhere other than Los Angeles. Just like most other great L.A. albums, Best Coast infuses their summer sunshine anthems with a subtext of ennui and dissatisfaction. The world-weary and yearning tone in Cosentino’s vocals belie her simple girl group lyrical concerns and convey a depth of emotion lurking beneath the surface. You get the feeling that, as much as Cosentino finds comfort in the simple themes of youth and summer, she is far too worldly to really believe that this is all life is really about.

The album leads off with current single “"Boyfriend” (click on the link for a free download, courtesy of our friends at Aquarium Drunkard), in which Cosentino pines for a boy who has eyes for another girl who is “prettier and skinnier.” In the tradition of all the great girl group epics, Cosentino’s desire is palpable and she teeters uncertainly along the thin line between love and obsession. In the title track, perhaps sung to the same generic boy, Cosentino finds that now that she has bagged her prize she’s not always so sure that she likes what she ended up with. “I want to hit you but then I’d kiss you” and “I want to kill you but then I’d miss you” are the kind of conflicted emotions that have been the theme of great pop songs back to the days of Goffin/King’s “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss).”

With the aid of Bobb Bruno, Cosentino has mastered lo-fi studio technique and knows how to get the most out of overdubbed harmonies, studio reverb and the famous monochromatic Spector drum sound that has featured in this type of music from The Ronettes through the Jesus and Mary Chain. Cosentino has a knack for simple melodies and understands her influences and how to get the sound she is after. Crazy for You represents a major advance in sonic quality from the earliest Best Coast singles, without sounding too produced or too derivative of the vintage source material.

There’s only about 30 minutes of music on Crazy for You and the twelve songs fly by faster than a summer vacation, but every songs works well within this context. Cosentino is particularly effective on mid-tempo numbers like “Our Deal” and “I Want To,” in which you can feel the sense of longing and restlessness in her voice. By the time the album closes with “Happy” and “Each & Everyday,” a pair of spiky tracks that could easily be outtakes from Beauty and the Beat, you have the feeling that this may be the opening chapter in a running dialogue with a compelling new songwriter. Now that we’ve had a taste of summer romance with Best Coast, it will be interesting to see how things turn out once the weather turns colder.

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