A decade after Best Coast released their indie-pop breakthrough “Sun Was High (and So Was I),” the band has cleaned up its act. Four years have passed since its last LP, California Nights, and frontwoman Bethany Cosentino has sobered up and turned her life around. It’s a commendable feat, but since she is the type of songwriter who sticks to what she knows, her struggles to maintain her new drug-and-alcohol-free mindset also preoccupy almost all of the songs on Always Tomorrow. It quickly becomes a same-y blur, especially when set to her and her counterpart Bobb Bruno’s generic, Eighties-inspired pop-rock soundtrack.
Each track comes off like its own daily affirmation, like a diary entry designed to keep her motivated as she faces her new world and the insecurities that come with it. On “Wreckage,” she wonders, “If I’m good now, why do I feel like a failure almost every day?” On “Graceless Kids,” she fantasizes that she’s the Queen of the Graceless Kids but “[I] wish that I could see what they see.” “Master of My Own Mind” is really just her tricking herself into staying positive as she tells herself she’s “Gotta stay the master of my own mind.” As she works through these thoughts, you really feel for her, but as the album continues on, you also begin to feel like an icky voyeur.
Unfortunately, the music doesn’t do the lyrics any favors, a real surprise coming from an artist whose earlier LPs established her as one of indie-pop’s sharpest melodists. There’s an obvious debt to feel-good pop from 30 years ago — J. Geils, Eddie Money, Huey Lewis, the Go-Go’s — but without the wit or fun those artists radiated. Perhaps Best Coast know this, since they modeled their album cover after Hotel California. It’s likely an allusion to the haunting world Cosentino left behind. It’s a great buildup to the next Best Coast album, which will likely be a sunnier affair.