The Only Place
Remember back in the late 50’s/60’s when life was simple? Just grabbin’ a burger at the stand by the beach, then paddling out in to the chilly blue water on your long board while the warming sun beats down on your shoulders and shimmers off the water. Then you catch that tubular wave into the sandy beach, grab your babe by the hip, hop in the ‘vette, and blast some Beach Boys on your way to catch a flick at the nearest drive-in … yea, I don’t remember that either. Instead I was born in 1986 in the state of Indiana. However, every once in a while I felt like I can relate to the feeling of the beach lifestyle via the music I am listening too. Beach Boys for example, Dick Dale, Jan and Dean, and for a post-1960’s example, Best Coast … ‘s first album.
^The only venue any surf-rock band should ever play.
In 2010, Best Coast released Crazy for You, a fun, poppy, punkish album that had the surf rock sounds of the 50’s/60‘s pouring from its seems like lava. Grant it, it was a total pop album that lyrically focused mainly on crushes, break-ups, and everything in-between, the vibe on the album is what really did it for me. It sounded like it had been recorded by blasting it through a radio from one end of a hallow cave to another. The new album, The Only Place, is extremely similar as far as content, but the ghostly cave sounds have been stripped away. Which seems to have quite a large impact on the album.
The first thing I noticed was how much they cleaned up the vocals. Instead of adding distorted reverb to vocals, they compressed the hell out of them. Now instead of shoe-gazing vocals that sound like they are a thousand miles away, you have dynamically compressed vocals that pop right out over the music, all crisp and clean-like. The music follows suit as well. What used to be fuzzy guitars that were soaking wet in reverb are now clean and bright guitars that have been lightly splashed in reverb. This takes away from the surf-vibe considerably and leaves you with just a straight up indie-pop album, that is fun and bouncy in its own respect, but a bit disappointing in others.
The easiest reference to drop would have to be Tennis. It was a very similar situation in which you had a very low-fi debut album with a female lead, turned out great, then on the second album they boosted up the production and got even more poppy. With Tennis, it worked quite well. Patrick Carney (of The Black Keys) pushed himself as a producer to still find a unique sound in Tennis without sacrificing that classic “beach” sound. Unfortunately, this was not accomplished in Best Coast’s sophomore release.
The opening track is an ode to California, stating the question “why would you live anywhere else” and making the statement that it is “the only place” for her to live. Personally, this instantly took me right out of the album. Not that California isn’t great, and worthy of her wondering how someone would want to live somewhere else, but there is a total pretentiousness to everything about this song that tunred me off instantly. I personally have a few reasons why I would like to live elsewhere, but thanks Best Coast for making feel like an idiot for thinking that. This is a feeling that lasted throughout the entire album for me, making it less fun to listen too than expected.
^We get it, you like where you live.
The album slightly picks up from there and as a result. The music gets poppier, and even though the subject matter stays slightly juvenile, there are a few more intelligent questions asked in this one rather than the ones brought up in Crazy For You. It’s really just a huge gear-grinder that they changed their sound so much without adding any other cool quirk or niche to it. It is by no means a hard album to listen too, you will have fun with it, and probably won’t judge it as harshly if you don’t have a lot of expectations from their previous efforts. The problem is that I did have those expectations.
Maybe it’s largely due to the new clean sound rather than the old junky one, but the whole album seems a bit uninteresting to me. On the surface its fun and vibrant and still fairly juvenile, however the innocence does seem gone. Therefore, it just comes off a bit snooty rather than playful. The good news is that it is summertime! And everyone needs a good, fun, poppy beach/pool album. Although I would recommend a few others (Tennis certainly being one) but The Only Place is a good backup option.
Can’t Miss: “Why I Cry”, “Last Year”, “Up All Night”
Can’t Hit: “The Only Place”, “Dreaming My Life Away” “How They Want Me To Be”