The Only Place

Two years ago, Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast was just a chill 23-year-old California girl with a cat named Snacks and a record collection full of teenage kicks from the Shangri-Las to Blink-182. But after the L.A. duo released Crazy for You, a massively catchy set of modern beach pop, it seemed like everyone wanted to hang with Cosentino, whether indie kids taken with her goofy humor or middle-agers impressed by her old-school songwriting chops. Yet the broad appeal that made the album a buzz supernova set up a challenge for the follow-up: How do you talk to so many new friends at once?

Cosentino's solution is to let the world further in on her everyday drama. The Only Place kicks off with the title track, a radiant surf-rock ode to the Golden State, but falls swiftly into the caffeinated complaint "Why I Cry," with Cosentino bemoaning terminal boredom over Bobb Bruno's racing drums, bass and lead guitar. So begins a string of minicrises about judgy friends, bad habits and turbulent relationships – relatable quarter-life bummers, spun into hooks as indelible as Taylor Swift's.

Those melodies ring out with a new clarity thanks to producer Jon Brion, the Bacharach disciple who helped Fiona Apple and Kanye West cut their sweetest-sounding records. Brion sweeps away the debut's low-fi fuzz, while Cosentino dramatically steps up her vocal presence on tunes like the tear-in-your-beer ballad "No One Like You." "Do you love me like you used to?" she wails elsewhere. You bet, Bethany – in fact, we love you even more.

Listen to Best Coast's 'The Only Place':

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Spring Music Preview 2012: Best Coast's 'The Only Place'

From The Archives Issue 1157: May 24, 2012