Best Coast California Nights
(Harvest Records – May 4, 2015)
Review by Stig Rasmussen
It’s common opinion that one’s musical tastes are formed as a teenager, and there is only minor growth or change in the sounds a listener is attracted to later in life. In a way, this makes sense, since the teenage years are when people have an abundance of free time to listen to music, and many young people form their identity around their musical tastes. I’m not sure how much I agree with this. The stuff I am into now isn’t radically different from what I was into as a teen, but I have definitely expanded my appreciation for a wider variety of music. I bring all this up because California Nights sounds like it came from the alt-rock heyday of the mid-1990’s.
The 90’s are coming back in a big way on this album. The title, California Nights, and the straight-ahead indie-rock sound are almost lifted from bands like Belly or Throwing Muses. It has a low-fi but not to scuzzed out sound, and singer Bethany Cosentino’s vocals are clear and dominant. Only the title track breaks a five-minute run time, and the album as a whole clocks in at an economical forty-three and a half minutes. The songs generally cover familiar territory of friendship, love, and relationships.
There is nothing too deep here, nothing that will change your world, but it still has the feel of that odd album you might have gotten your hands on as a 15-year-old that you played over and over and fell in love with. Even with the strong 90’s vibe, the songs hark back to ‘50’s and ‘60’s garage pop and girl bands. Essentially, this is simple rock goodness.
The album is easy to like, even if few of the songs really stand out from the crowd. Title track “California Nights” is the most dynamic, with a hazy fuzz build up to about the two-minute mark before Cosentino opens up her vocal wail of “you’re miiiiine” and the drums kick in. From here on, the track has a strong guitar melody that flits in and out of her vocal phrasing.
Early track, “Fine Without You,” has a faster tempo than most of the other tracks and this helps keep the energy level up and hook the listener. A guitar riff after the last verse keeps the rock level high, and sets up a great transition into “Heaven Sent.” In the latter half of the album “Sleep Won’t Ever Come” uses sweet pop melodies, Cosentino’s double tracked vocals, and an insistent beat to keep the listener engaged.
California Nights is at it’s best when the stakes are low. This album is perfect for driving with the windows down on a sunny afternoon. It’s great for those little moments you have to yourself when you you want to sing along to the lyrics and pretend no one is watching. Better yet, it’s perfect for pretending you are a teenager again and heading out for a carefree evening with your best friends. Just hum along and roll with the good vibes.