Bethany Cosentino returns this month with the much-anticipated follow-up to Best Coast's 2010 debut Crazy for You. Her sophomore release The Only Place represents a small step towards musical maturity, as Cosentino recaptures her love for Southern California, but sheds the juvenile obsession over boys and her best friend Snacks the Cat. Maybe this is the byproduct of her relationship with Wavves' Nathan Williams and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop her own clothing line for Urban Outfitters.
The Only Place isn't just an improvement on Best Coast's debut; it's a harsh reminder that it's a steep fall from grace when you start out as a darling of the indie music blogs. Like Weezer's Pinkerton, this album can't and won't be fully appreciated until fans and critics have their chance to deliver some initial hipster backlash. Admittedly, I too cringe when super-fans describe the new school of Southern California indie rock as noise-pop, surf-pop, garage-pop, lo-fi or even beach-pop. But I don't like this new album because it's an inventive genre. Instead, I appreciate Cosentino's honesty and humility in her approach to song writing.
Best Coast's songs expose Cosentino's ability to display both her narcissistic side and self awareness in three minute snippets. Songs like "How They Want Me To Be" and "Last Year" reveal Cosentino's struggle to deal with life as an iconic indie musician who has received more attention than she may deserve. Yet "The Only Place," the title track of the album, presents superficial emotions of a homesick kid returning from tour (akin to Rivers Cuomo sitting in his dorm room feeling bad for himself). "The Only Place" is an open love letter to Southern California: "We've got the ocean, got the babes, we've got the sun, we've got the waves...why would you live anywhere else?"
Everyone can relate to the universal experiences of being misunderstood and occasionally lonely. And if you want more from Crazy For You, musically this album leaves the same sonic footprint of straight ahead ballads and upbeat garage rock.