Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Best Coast Sharpens The Fade Away

Best Coast
Bethany Cosentino and Bob Bruno have always put down the right lo-fi pop drone into Best Coast. Not this time, exactly. Fade Away abandons some of the fogged up cloudiness and sharpens up their prog rock leanings.

There is a maturity to the sound now, which makes sense given that the Glendale girl who used to have birthday parties at a bowling alley has grown up. She has been slowing down steadily since her twenties. You can almost hear it in the albums at times, as each one has matured along with her.

Fade Away feels like a natural progression as the duo slides around sub genres. The vocals are clearer and the instrumentals more substantial as they move toward a more sophisticated temperament.

Fade Away makes an even trade for Best Coast.

There is a trade off in sacrificing the spontaneity of garage rock and surf pop, even if the band has kept their fifties and sixties sensibilities about them. The album doesn't sound as if it was recorded with reckless abandon. It's well crafted, with a carefulness not associated with Best Coast.

There are times on Fade Away that this stand-up-and-tell-it attitude still comes out. Who I Have Become? is one of them. As the third track down the album, it's the first time Cosentino puts on an invitation to ease into the music and her unique brand of honest uncertainty.

Everything about that track rings true as Cosentino cruises across divides that separate her feelings from her life. She's not complaining, but recognizes that finding security in life is its own kind of prison. Bruno also buzzes up the foundation with an addictive, restless steadiness.

Who I Have Become? would have been a brilliant lead-off song for the album, but Cosentino chose I Don't Know How instead. The reason was simple and it's pretty easy to respect it. I Don't Know How sounds the least like Best Coast.

It was specifically chosen because they both love the vibe despite it being the one song that sounds the least like Best Coast. After opening with a folk-country flair, the track eventually breaks out of its slow-paced and somber one-two beat before crushing it as an alternative pop track.

I wouldn't be surprised to think that this song, slightly more than the others, is the one that Cosentino relates to the most. The reflective quality of the lyrics can be mesmerizing as she delivers a pitch perfect harmony that contemplates how she got where she is today.

The question of identity haunts the album throughout.

Everybody feels like that sometimes, and Cosentino feels like that more than not on Fade Away. Fear Of My Identity solidifies this ever-present theme of traveling along and eventually looking back in wonderment at how you got there. In this case, Fear Of My Identity is about expectations that others lay out for you. The recording is rougher, indicative of Best Coast's previous albums.

The balance of the album — This Lonely Morning, I Wanna Know, and Fade Away — are all solid tracks that underscore an effort to bring out the vocals and add clarity to the instruments. Of the three, Fade Away is the slowest and among the most moving.

That leaves Baby I'm Crying, which is a nicely produced near crooner. Of the seven tracks that deliver around 25 minutes of play, it is probably the weakest. The shame of it is that is has all of the right elements but the percussion's steadiness becomes a bit of a distraction. Still, the girl can sing. And that, along with her long-time musical partner Bruno, is enough reason to own the album.

Fade Away Drifts In And Over 7.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

While Fade Away doesn't have the cohesion one would expect from an album of uncertainty, mostly because of the way each track drops in and out of certain feelings, it still creates a striking set for Best Coast. On one hand, Fade Away doesn't seem like an album you need to own beyond a few tracks. But on the other hand, it is impossibly difficult to separate out which songs those might be.

Fade Away by Best Coast is available on Amazon. You can also download it from iTunes or pick the vinyl up from Barnes & Noble. The album has received some mixed reviews, but Best Coast fans are thrilled with it. I wouldn't be surprised if it attracts some new listeners. For touring information, turn to Facebook.
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