Having been a Best Coast fan since the release of their blissed out debut album Crazy For You back in 2010, there was always a sense of knowing that this initial release left a bar raised so high that it was always going to be a tough job trying to top it. Their sophomore follow-up The Only Place was at best a fairly decent album, but it lacked the true ‘oomph’ that their debut album packed behind its punch, leaving for a rather insubstantial follow up. However, fast forward to 2015, and any preconceptions as to whether Best Coast ‘have still got it’ are about to be blown out of the water.
Just little over a month ago, Best Coast released the promotional video for ‘Heaven Sent’, and to say that they caught everyone off guard is an understatement. A blitz of reverb soaked guitar leads, punk rock fury (yes you read that correctly), thunderous drums, beautiful vocals, and a soaring chorus so epic that it almost borders on the verge of celestial. As an indication for things to come, this certainly set the standard. But, as with most great singles, one usually finds that it ends up being the best song on the album, leaving the rest a turgid disappointment of whimsical proportions. So the question is, would their latest offering California Nights live up to its standard, or would it merely be another disappointment to add to the list?
Well let it be known right now… California Nights is far from a disappointment. But, neither does it live up to the standard that ‘Heaven Sent’ set – it exceeds it, and then some. In fact, it serves as Best Coast‘s magnum opus – their most career defining album to date.
The production on this album is incredible, all thanks to the magic that platinum-award winning producer Wally Gagel (who also produced their 2013 EP Fade Away) has created. California Nights embodies production elements from their previous releases, but they have cranked it up so much that it sounds like the raising of Lazarus, or something as absurdly mythical.
More notably, California Nights is the kind of album that screams ‘stadium filler’. Debut album Crazy For You was soaked with reverb, and, whilst this was totally cool and justified with their lo-fi stoner surf rock sound at the time, the saturation of this effect was more akin to be played from the intimacy of a smaller venue; the magic of the production being arguably lost if played in a much larger setting.
California Nights has the perfect equilibrium of intimate, in your face punk rock grit executed wonderfully and saving those reverb-effected sounds for the right time. It layers the song structure dynamic to create something truly spectacular. Best Coast and Gagel have found that correct sonic medium of making something sound so raw yet at the same time ‘radio-friendly’, in the best possible way.
Influentially speaking, there is so much that can be picked up on this album. There are elements of 60s psychedelia (The Beach Boys, ), 70s punk rock (Ramones, Blondie, The Saints), 80s pop sensibilities (Belinda Carlisle, Tiffany), early 90s alternative rock and grunge (Hole, L7, Pavement), and contemporarily speaking – all of the magic that has created some of the more promising indie and alternative bands of our time. But, with all of these incredible influences, it still sounds uniquely Best Coast and their honed sound still defines them as a band, rather than sees them as imitators.
In regards to the tracks on this album, it is extremely hard to pick a flaw with any of them and seems to be a case of all killer no filler. Highlights include the beautiful album opener ‘Feeling OK’, the infectious ‘Heaven Sent’, the sensational ‘When Will I Change’, and the soon to be crowd sing along favourite ‘Jealousy’ with its groovy ‘sha-laa-la-laa’ laden chorus. There could be the argument that California Nights as a whole may sound a little repetitive to those who are hearing Best Coast for the first time, and that is a fair judgment to make. It will soon be clear after a few listens though just how much joy this album brings.
Another very minor criticism is that during the songs ‘Run Through My Head’ and ‘Sleep Won’t Ever Come’, the album’s gears are shifted down a notch and could be seen as being weaker additions to the collection. But, to be perfectly honest, after the hand clappingly sweet ‘Fading Away’, Best Coast merely start to bring you back down to earth in time for their gorgeous album closer – the melancholy yet wondrous ‘Wasting Time’.
Bethany Cosentino stated in a recent article, “It was the first time I’ve ever been entirely happy with every song on a record”. And you know what… she has every right to feel that confident. Best Coast have never been one of those ‘confident’ types and were always fraught with an endearing awkwardness that connected with their audience. But now, for what seems like the first time in their careers, they have found their strength to which gives them that confidence, and in turn they have finally released the album they have been waiting to unleash upon the world their entire career.
California Nights is unquestionably the best album of Best Coast’s career to date, and more importantly one of the best albums of the year. If there is one album that should be the soundtrack to your summer, then by all means make sure it is this joyous masterpiece.