May 15, 2012 - Mexican Summer
This review originally ran in AP 287.
Musically, The Only Place contains no trace of the lo-fi, distorted daydreams which comprised early Best Coast 7-inches—or, for that matter, the reverb-soaked, girlish laments of their 2010 debut, Crazy For You. Recorded at Capitol Records’ iconic Studio B—where Frank Sinatra and Green Day have made albums—and produced by Jon Brion (Kanye West, Rufus Wainwright), the record is sophisticated. Although jangly guitars gallop through the title track and “Why I Cry” (and “Let’s Go Home” sounds like Patsy Cline fronting Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers), The Only Place mainly focuses on mid-tempo mood pieces: torchy ballads (“No One Like You”), wholesome ’50s-rock (“Dreaming My Life Away”), Pet Sounds-esque shimmer-pop (“Up All Night”) and twangy indie (“Better Girl”). Above all, the album is a vocal coming-out of sorts for frontwoman Bethany Cosentino, whose confidence radiates through every song, whether she’s channeling Neko Case or girl-group sweethearts. Appropriately, The Only Place’s lyrical concerns are also more existential and mature; among other things, Cosentino muses about being homesick, leaving bad habits behind and figuring out her identity (and love life) despite a heightened profile. The world-weary waltz “Last Year” summarizes it best: “What a year this day has been/What a day this year has been.” Judging by the catchy, assured The Only Place, the struggle was worth it.