Just hearing Best Coast's music, let alone knowing the band's name, or taking a look at their album cover, you can easily guess that they come from southern California. The surf-rock guitars, 60s girl-group ooh's and aah's, and Bethany Cosentino's hazy, reverb-honeyed vocals instantly transport you to the sun-soaked beaches of Los Angeles, which Cosentino and her bandmate Bobb Bruno call home. It’s kind of ironic though, that it took a winter on the East Coast for Cosentino to figure out that she wanted to render the infinite summer of her hometown in pop song form. Cosentino said, “When I was in New York I would walk to the train in the morning through the snow listening to Brian Wilson sing about California, and it made me happy. So I decided that I wanted to make music that reflected that happiness.”
But constantly warm weather and surfable waves do not guarantee constantly good vibes. Even within an infinite summer there is room for heartbreak and longing: as Cosentino sings on the song “Summer Mood,” “There's something about the Summer / That makes me moody.” What makes Best Coast more than just an enjoyable musical approximation of a day at the beach is Cosentino's simple and wistful lyrics. Sometimes they sound like they could have been ripped straight out of a fifteen-year-old girl's diary, with lovelorn lines like, “I wish he was my boyfriend.” And then there are also the bored couch-musings of any SoCal slacker like, “I wish my cat could talk.” Cosentino sings these simple lyrics so sweetly straightforward that they come across not as ironic or campy, but really just sweet and straightforward.
A good pop song makes this happen—it can take simplicity and transfigure it into something hard to articulate. As Cosentino herself told NPR, “I'm just a true believer in simple, straightforward pop songs…. And I think there's nothing more simple or straightforward than saying, 'When I'm with you, I have fun.'” So it's not hard to figure out why Best Coast's debut album, Crazy For You, showed up on so many best-of-2010 lists: it delivered thirteen insanely catchy pop songs that confer confusing emotions in an uncomplicated manner. Whether Bethany Cosentino is singing about her boyfriend, summer or her cat, Best Coast morphs simple sentiments like, “Maybe I'm just crazy / Crazy for you baby,” into something immediately felt, and the emotions never fail to translate.
- Ben Dixon