“”Fade Away'” is, like so much of Best Coast’s work, a very private album. At times, any sympathy from the listener is trumped by the kind of anxiety you might feel from reading someone’s diary, but Cosentino generally proves herself to be a master at crafting songs that are simultaneously intensely personal and universally relevant.”
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Parker Evans is an economics senior and Mustang News music columnist.
Bethany Cosentino can’t understand why anyone would want to live without a view of the Pacific Ocean. The Cali-centric Cosentino made a name for herself by combining the sun of So-Cal beach rock with the brashness of L.A. girl groups to create chunks of fuzzy surf pop infused with the longing of a homesick 20-something girl from the City of Angels.
“Fade Away” is Best Coast’s third full release and its first after leaving label Mexican Summer to form Cosentino’s brand new label, Jewel City. The term “full release” may be a little generous, considering “Fade Away” clocks in at a short-but-sweet seven songs and less than 30 minutes, but the duo of Cosentino and Bobb Bruno work to use that short length to its advantage.
In interviews, Cosentino claims that the production shoots for the sweet spot between the fuzzy lo-fi charm of “Crazy for You” and the somewhat cleaner pop of “The Only Place.” In reality, “Fade Away” is much closer to the latter. The handclaps on “I Wanna Know” and the multi-layered vocals on “I Don’t Know How” mark a progression in confidence from the reverb-heavy early days without losing the band’s keen pop sensibilities.
The structure and sound of surf pop have always been a defining aspect of Best Coast, but thematically, “Fade Away” is partly cloudy. Although this past year’s “The Only Place” had a lead single so catchy and pro-California that it should be played 24/7 from a PA system rigged up around Los Angeles’ City Hall, “Fade Away’s” poppiest song, “This Lonely Morning,” turns out to be quite a downer upon closer inspection.
When Best Coast burst onto the scene in 2010 with sleeper hit “Crazy for You,” listeners felt the band had tapped into the condition of the modern American young adult. This was a 23-year-old girl who sang about getting high and missing boys and talking to her cat with the world-weariness unique to a college student and none of the high school angst. While “Fade Away” may not have Cosentino’s cat spliced onto the album art, much of the same subject matter of quarter-life crisis remains. “When did I wake up and / Suddenly my soul has grown so old?” she asks on “Who Have I Become.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Best Coast album without a song about an unrequited crush, so “I Don’t Know How” does the heavy lifting on that front. “Fade Away” is, like so much of Best Coast’s work, a very private album. At times, any sympathy from the listener is trumped by the kind of anxiety you might feel from reading someone’s diary, but Cosentino generally proves herself to be a master at crafting songs that are simultaneously intensely personal and universally relevant.
Best Coast is a band that refuses to stray too far from its sound, which means that by the end of the “Fade Away,” the songs are starting to blend together. Here, the album’s short running time is a blessing. The record closes on the frustrated yearning of “I Don’t Know How” and then exits before it wears out its welcome, but even so, Best Coast could use a break from Cosentino’s relentless bar chords and basic song structures. While it’s been a moderately successful formula so far, the band’s self-imposed limitations are putting a ceiling on its potential.
In some ways, that stubbornness is part of the charm of Best Coast. “I don’t want to change / I’ll stay the same,” she promises on “Fade Away,” and for now that’s just fine.