On their EP Fade Away, Best Coast, a rock duo based in Los Angeles, attempts to capture the mood of California but fails to bring the energy of the Sunshine State to their music.
Even those who have never been to the Golden Coast have surely heard the rock and pop music of SoCal. From the Beach Boys to Katy Perry, artists have brought the spirit of the Pacific beaches with laid-back, breezy tunes. With their seven new tracks, Best Coast make their roots known but try too hard to obtain the effortless sound of other SoCal stars. There are some genuinely smart, entertaining moments, but they are unfortunately short glimpses of sun on a cloudy day at the beach.
The first track off Fade Away, “This Lonely Morning,” isn’t particularly cheerful, but it remains an innocent, upbeat song. It sounds like it was recorded in the ’90s, a time when songs could be meaningful without being melodramatic. The song’s lyrics, however, lack complexity.
The simplicity of Best Coast’s lyrics does eventually become a problem. As the songs progress, it becomes apparent that this problem is not specific to “This Lonely Morning.” Simplicity is universal on Fade Away, and the initial charm quickly disappears. In general, the lyrics suffer from banality and monotony. Cliches provide the foundations for tracks like “Who I Have Become” and “Fear of My Identity” — leaving them little substance to stand on. And “Fade Away,” an otherwise enjoyable song, includes the frustrating declaration, “I won’t change. I’ll stay the same.” To make things worse, that phrase — reiterated several times — serves as the chorus, increasing its repetitiveness.
When the lyrics don’t hamper a song, however, something great happens. In “Baby I’m Crying,” a slow-burning ballad, vocalist Bethany Cosentino powerfully showcases subtle emotion. Without a doubt the strongest song on Fade Away, “Baby I’m Crying” manages to sound simultaneously modern and classic. Other tracks feel like old recordings or failed reproductions. The ballad goes beyond mere repetition and builds a bridge between past in the present.
Beneath the lyrics, there are things to appreciate.
Instrumentally and vocally, Best Coast provides that relaxed California vibe their name would suggest.Cosentino’s voice has a timeless quality, and if you ignore the words, the songs can be enchanting.
For a band that has already released two studio albums, Best Coast underwhelms with its latest effort. All of the ingredients for great, original music are present. Best Coast has clear influences, distinct sound and talented members. Best Coast plans to release another full-length album in the spring, and hopefully they can fully capture the spirit they merely skirted around with Fade Away. If they can’t, they might be another thing that’s fading.