Best Coast - California Nights (Cover Artwork)

Best Coast

California Nights (2015)

Harvest Records

Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno have grown up right before our lo-fi eyes. In Best Coast’s newest release, California Nights, they have grown to full, surf rock maturation. The echo chamber is turned down, the production level turned up, and the results are a fuller, more complete, mainstream quality sound. The band has created a pop-rock album that will certainly grab a broader audience, but satisfy old listeners, while the LP keeps a garage rock backbone.

This version of Best Coast seems a more upbeat, and not as typically heartbroken in “Feeling OK,” an introduction that could very well serve as 2015’s summer anthem. The song is a balanced jam full of feel-good. “Fine Without You” tries to continue the positivity, but it hits a snag. Cosentino expresses reservations, the song admits to the difficulty of moving on, and maybe things won’t be so fine after all, but, ultimately, separation is for the better.

Lovestruck longing, a Best Coast specialty, is built up on “Heaven Sent” and “In My Eyes” (not a Minor Threat cover), creating the image of someone worth chasing, even if coming up short. They bring into question whether romantic interests are more than momentary, or only fleeting lust, while acknowledging which of the two is more healthy. This is an area where the band has evolved, there is plenty of cry-worthy material, but the lasting impression isn’t defeat. California Nights was built with a fuller heart.

Self-analysis plays a major role during tracks like “Jealousy,” driven by a light country-twang, inspecting the inner workings and baffling nature of a love unrequited, noticing its absurdity. “When Will I Change” is similar, but notches everything to an almost overly-critical level. Again, there is a high note of hope that rings through, helped by a giant musical rush of lo-fi garage whooshes and crashes. “Run Through My Head” finishes the questioning segment of material, using a straightforward structure and plenty of hook reciting, fighting the Costanzian urge to say, “it’s not you, it’s me.”

The album’s title track, “California Nights,” is an escaping, slow rolling, Golden State ballad. Everything is drawn out, vocals coming across as haunting, drumming keeping a crawling pace, and guitar solos vibing into the twilight. A sleepy track full of relief, this is the one point where a break is given, a true escape from the self. Ending the album, and serving as a reactionary piece to the previously mentioned track, “Wasted Time” brings questionable resolution. As soon as the romantic feelings and heartsickness are cleared, resentment sets in, not quite knowing who is at fault. The blame is secondary, however, as we should be glad the chapter is closed, after 43 minutes of grief, wonder, learning, and, finally, acceptance.

Best Coast are no longer just a delightful typhoon of sad surf-rock, they have become a gentler, “poppier” storm; California Nights, emotionally, is a little less George, and a little more Kramer. There is the sense that serenity will come, even if not immediately, and that is perfectly okay.