Baby, You’re Mine – a review of Best Coast’s album California Nights

Photo credit: alwaysmecloting.com

Photo credit: alwaysmecloting.com

“What is life? What is love? What is the meaning of it all? Do I even care or is it just that I am so unaware?”

These questions, sung by Bethany Cosentino on the track “So Unaware”, seem to sum up thematically many of the tunes on the wonderful new Best Coast album, California Nights. It’s not heady by any means, just thoughtful and slightly introspective.

Musically, Cosentino and creative cohort Bob Bruno keep things drenched in the kind of California power-surf-pop that never fails to get my attention. It’s a sound that won my heart early on in my life.  When it’s great, I can fall in love. And I have fallen hard for California Nights.

Cosentino’s vocals are strong and suited perfectly to the sound of Best Coast. Paired with the slightly reflective spirit of the lyrics, it is a nearly heartbreaking sound. Or maybe it’s heart healing. Heart lifting? The opening track, “Feeling OK”, sets the tone perfectly. It is gently upbeat and bright, played at mid-tempo. It acknowledges a bit of melancholy in the lyrics but reveals that, actually, I’m doing pretty good and “When I get down I get so down, but I’ll keep trying to stay this way. I know it’s love that’s got me feeling OK.” And listening to this song makes me feel much more than just ok.

There are moments here that invoke memories of The Go-go’s (especially the delightful “Heaven Sent” and “When Will I Change”), which is not surprising as the album remains pretty squarely in the same sweet-spot that the 80’s punk-pop queens established musical residence. But just when you think California Nights is starting to feel a little samey, the band releases the mesmerizing centerpiece of this collection – the enthralling title track.

“California Nights” was the first single released in advance of the album. The first time I listened to it, I could feel something in the song reach out to grab my hand and pull me gently into its swirling soundscape. Then, Cosentino started singing to me. Yes, you heard me – she started singing to ME. To read the lyrics, the song seems so simple. But to hear Cosentino sing the lyrics – well, that’s a totally different thing. It’s a song about escaping the sometimes difficult realities of day-to-day life. Sometimes, a California night is all it takes to accomplish that escape.

“California nights make me feel so happy I could die.”

But this is not just a song about trying to maintain the high of escape. No matter how great that feeling might seem, so much so that death, or permanent disconnect from reality, would be fine, there is something even greater than that which makes her want to stay alive.

“I never want to get so high –  that I can’t come back down to real life –  and look you in the eyes and “Baby, you’re mine!””

It is a lyric that is delivered with devastating affection. It slays me every time I hear it. And Cosentino makes me believe she is singing it to me. Someone should tell her that I’m married.

Somewhere in the simple sentiment of “California Nights” is the answer to the existential questions about life’s meaning that are posed elsewhere on this record. And with this collection, Best Coast has me feeling way better than ok.

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~ by themattmorrisshow on May 17, 2015.

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