Published May 04, 2015Calling out Bethany Cosentino, a 20-something, vaguely famous woman, for chronicling the trials and tribulations of 20-something, vaguely famous women has become something of a sport for critics. While some still believe Cosentino is as an artist capable of a sonic and lyrical breakthrough, there were many (vaguely sexist) calls for the singer to just grow up.
California Nights isn't going to change that dynamic. It flaunts the qualities that made Best Coast indie darlings in the first place while continuing down the thematic road that feeds Cosentino's detractors. Third time out, Cosentino eschews songs explicitly about the titular state that she frequently mythologizes; rather, the Golden State provides the backdrop for heartbreak. This razor-sharp focus on loss and longing provides some of the album's highlights, but it also proves its weakest link; Cosentino's literal, plainspoken lyrics feed Best Coast's slacker vibes and unique point of view, but grow wearisome when contained to a single subject.
Still, her long-time collaborator Bobb Bruno remains a relatively unsung hero, and the duo outdid themselves in terms of song arrangements. Each track is punctuated by a massive chorus that quickly forgives Cosentino for rhyming "pretend" with "the end," while shimmering guitars and booming drums lend stadium gravitas to the proceedings to demonstrate just why the two have managed to leave similarly-minded groups in their wake.
The focused California Nights nevertheless cements Best Coast as one of the few bands capable of straddling the line between intimacy and mass appeal. Cosentino's songs mine the same emotions over and over with similar results, but that doesn't mean there's any less truth in her words the first, tenth or 30th time out. (Harvest)