Review: Best Coast ‘The Only Place’

Release date: 5/15
Rating: 2/5

Best Coast lives and works in Eagle Rock, California, a sunny suburb of Los Angeles just a short but mandatory drive up the 2 from de-facto Los Feliz / Silverlake. That ten minute drive can make Eagle Rock seem just that much further away from Los Angeles as a whole, creating a detached little enclave entirely separate from the glitz of the rest of LA. Eagle Rock is (somewhat famously) a bit of a marijuana hotbed, and this creates more to that detached nature. Comedian Marc Maron lives up there. So does comedienne Maria Bamford. Both are known for being, shall we say, somewhat cerebral. For some – like Maron – that kind of inner tinkering can produce wonderful discourse with the rest of the comedy industry. For Bamford, it allows her to delve into her own perceptions of others to produce one-of-a-kind comedy. For Bethany Coesentino of the band Best Coast, that kind of soul searching doesn’t work.

On Best Coast’s second album, she is not entirely sure as to whether she’s a rock star or part of the stoners who still hang out at Cha Cha Lounge. The album certainly has a professional sheen to it and Bethany seems to talk less about weed and cats and now seems to focus on matters of the heart. Some might even say that she’s “changed.” Those people might be “right.” “The Only Place” sounds like the musical equivalent of shopping at Trader Joe’s while stoned – a kind of odd haze neither here nor there from reality, daydreaming about loves lost while staring at the free enchilada samples next to the complimentary fruit punch.

After twenty minutes or so of listening, you realize that the lyrics sound like the kind of thing that one would hear if they tapped into the mind of a 9th grader day-dreaming in class; “I’m always crying on the phone / because I know that I will end up alone” she belts out on “Do You Still Love Me Like You Used To.” She self-pities to the point of parody. Writing an album about love and loss can sometimes be the perfect vehicle for an artist, yet it’s hard to respect someone who can barely seem to respect themselves. That sounds harsh, but if I know Bethany like I think I do, she’s a lot stronger than she portrays herself on this album.

Bethany is clearly Very Fucking Talented and I’m ultimately going to write this off as a failed statement. It carries nowhere near the fun and loucheness of her last album, 2010’s spectacular “Crazy For You.” Here, Bethany seems so locked-in by the success of that last album that she tries to emulate it without any of the sunny stoner vibe that made “Crazy For You” sound like someone not giving a fuck. “The Only Place” is the sound of someone very clearly and definitely Giving A Fuck, a stance that might work if she was Faith No More but doesn’t so much for Bethany’s voice, guitar, or anything else on this album. Bethany is best when she’s carefree.

Late in the album is a perfect gem of a pop song in “Let’s Go Home,” a truly charming number that is simply perfect for Bethany’s palette. It’s a three minute, sunny song that longs for something she can’t have right now, a sentiment that is shared on the rest of the album, but truly nailed here.

And then album closer “Up All Night” sounds like the kind of song to be played over a montage of Eagle Rock High School students smoking in their cars and making out – it’s the album’s most melodramatic song, tacked on right after its best. Perhaps this is the soundtrack to the summer for two California kids (surely it will be), but for the rest of us, the album is about as much fun as watching a couple break up in public and then make out sloppily in the Trader Joe’s parking lot.

It’s hard to dislike Bethany as a singer or a songwriter, but this album fails.