The Student Playlist

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ALBUM REVIEW: Best Coast – ‘California Nights’ (Harvest)

Front cover of 'California Nights'

Front cover of ‘California Nights’

by Matthew Langham

L.A.’s stoner-surfer rock duo Best Coast deliver their third record California Nights three years on from The Only Place, seeking to rehabilitate themselves from a classic case of disappointing second album syndrome. Most well-known for their sun-drenched 2010 debut album Crazy For You, its clusters of languid indie-rock nuggets and frontwoman Bethany Cosentino’s Twitter updates about her cat Snacks, their new record sees them take a now-familiar trip down the road of summery rock, only this time with a hint of country rock and decidedly more polished sound. Their first two records were largely quite two-dimensional, three-minute pop hits, but this is certainly their most professional and ambitious work to date.

In places, Best Coast’s sound is heavier and chunkier, with ‘Heaven Sent’ possibly their strongest single to date. Its ‘90s power-pop style is a throwback to Hole, Lush, even Mazzy Star with a touch of The Go-Go’s. But ‘Feeling OK’ and ‘In My Eyes’ remain married to the quintessential Best Coast sound from their early days. The vocals of Bethany Cosentino shine above the intricate guitar hooks. This is a different Best Coast record; there’s a hint of old and new with a distinct freshness that places it a cut above the disappointingly flat The Only Place. However, there is a trail of familiarity across the album, which means that a couple of filler tracks (‘Run Through My Head’, ‘Sleep Won’t Ever Come’) sadly bleed together in an audio malaise.

California Nights probably won’t convince listeners who weren’t entertained by the first two records, but it will likely be enough to satisfy the already-converted – basically, the sound of a band keeping a firm hand on the tiller. There’s also never a suggestion that Best Coast are going to recapture the joyous novelty of Crazy For You. However there are a couple of pop gems in ‘Heaven Sent’ and ‘In My Eyes’. The recycled guitar riffs and clichés have been toned down to make for a handful of powerful individual moments that make the album well worth a listen, but it just isn’t consistent enough throughout. (6/10)

Listen to California Nights here!


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