It seems that within the last year or so, every other new indie band is going to the beach. The hazy, fuzzed out, coastal sound has become nothing short of ubiquitous, with groups urging listeners, either directly or indirectly, to forget the economy and hardships of life and to grab a pair of sunglasses and some sunscreen. Despite the sound’s emergence as a trend, bands such as Real Estate, Surfer Blood, Girls, and The Drums in particular have released solid albums that utilize the best aspects of the shore bound bands of yesteryear to form something wholly their own.
You can add Los Angeles two piece Best Coast to this list. Since they first caught the attention of bloggers with their two singles “Sun Was High (So Was I)” and “When I’m With You” last year, the duo of Bethany Costentino and Bobb Bruno have remained extremely busy, touring with Vivian Girls and recording their highly anticipated debut, “Crazy For You” in a two week period. Their prolificness has paid off. “Crazy For You” is an album that, while nowhere near the game changer some will make it out to be, is filled with many memorable songs that are a welcome addition to the ever-growing surf rock revival canon.
Costentino is the group’s obvious X factor. While there is little variance in her lyrical subjects, boys and relationships with boys, her delivery is both convincing and earnest, turning even the most simple phrases and laments into heartfelt confessions. This straightforward approach to things is a big part of this group’s charm. Opening track, and instant standout “Boyfriend” paints the all too familiar picture of wanting to be more than friends with someone through the almost adolescent declaration “I wish he was my boyfriend/ I’d love him to the very end but instead he’s just a friend.” The arrangement that backs it is surprisingly full sounding and instantly catchy, with guitars in full surf mode, layered vocals for added depth, and a loud and present rhythm section that give the song it’s drive. What ties everything together though is Costentino’s voice. Much like the New Pornographer’s Neko Case, minus the folksy twang, it is a crystalline force that is clear and affecting, and contains a depth that gives an air of effortlessness to it. When combined with the group’s dedication to song craft, it is a winning formula that seldom wavers.
One very interesting aspect about many of the songs on “Crazy For You” is the fact that while the music is sunny and bright, it oftentimes serves as a mask for the longing and heartache that many of Costentino’s lyrics explore. For example, on “Boyfriend,” the longing turns into outright jealousy, as Costentino sees the object of her desire with a girl that she perceives as better than her. “The other girl is not like me/ She’s skinnier and prettier/ She has a college degree/ I dropped out when I was seventeen.” The contrast of these sentiments to the music can imply that Costentino is lost in her despair, despite the warm temperatures and lure of the beach. It is a subtle but effective contradiction that is utilized to a great effect on the title track, where over a simple guitar riff she acknowledges she can’t fall out of love with someone who she occasionally hates. Additionally, on “Goodbye,” she utilizes humor to evoke her sadness, as she exclaims that “not even TV or a bunch of weed” can make her happy. It alludes to the idea that even when the water is at its bluest and the sand is at a perfect temperature, not even the sunniest of days are enough to divorce us from our more ominous feelings. The fact that this message is communicated in such a straightforward way makes these songs all the more relatable with multiple listens.
“Crazy For You” keeps the highs coming and rarely lets up. The two minute long “Our Deal” utilizes girl-group harmonies and jangly percussion, not to mention a nice short guitar solo, while Costentino reflects on the fact that she can’t get the man she’s with to communicate his feelings. It’s a brief but effective song that has an almost carefree vibe to it, despite the heavy subject material. Additionally, the heavy reverb and big percussion of “Honey” make for a song that is immediately memorable. Other highlights include the bitter refrain of “You will never fall in love” on album closer “Each and Everyday,” and the inclusion of “When I’m With You” as a bonus track is a nice touch. It serves as a reminder that this band was on to something from the very start.
While nothing here is particularly new or innovative, “Crazy For You” is a confident statement by a group that is focused and well versed in all the best aspects of pop music. Best Coast have earned their place alongside the elite of their surf rock contemporaries, and while the beach revival party will eventually end when a new sound dominates the underground, “Crazy For You” is an album that will carry over because the message transcends its locales and explores what anyone who has ever been in love can relate to.