The Only Place - MEXICAN SUMMER
FILTER Grade: 79%
By Taleen Kalenderian on May 14, 2012
In-N-Out, getting stoned, quinceñeras, cats (and now, Urban Outfitters?) were all part of Bethany Cosentino’s iconography since she started treading coastal waves, but Best Coast has a new mascot for her second full-length, The Only Place: the simplicity of a California bruin embracing the Golden State. The album’s title track (and opener) is a unequivocal love letter to California, with clean guitars, two-step punk and a playfully braggadocio Cosentino exclaiming, “Why would you live anywhere else?”
The Only Place finds Cosentino heartfully tackling coming-of-age subject matter with a rhyming dictionary in one hand and self-discovery in the other, honing in on identity rather than whining about boys (“How They Want Me to Be,” “Better Girl”). In fact, her oft-overkilled “crazy/lazy” rhyme scheme finally finds relief here, only appearing once on this album. The problem is, the surf sensibilities that were once in the foreground—and arguably the most enjoyable aspect—of Best Coast’s music have been pushed aside for extensive country balladry that was only touched upon with Crazy for You, now often sounding like a crutch easily within reach.
Still, Cosentino’s vocal growth is commendable and works beautifully with her newfound lyricism, especially shining on the album’s strongest track, “No One Like You”—a retro ballad for indie college couples for years to come. And, of course, the master behind the knobs of the record, Jon Brion, makes sure everything from the guitars to Cosentino’s increasingly confident vocals get a pristine treatment, taking center stage for the entire album and an amazing feat on “Do You Still Love Me Like You Used To.” Cosentino shows us that her approach to relationships has changed, and that the hurdles now are longterm and long-distance commitments.
While The Only Place loses much of the simplicity that made Crazy for You such a breezy, fun listen, there’s only room for growth in records to come—and damn it if every other hook doesn’t stick to your ears like sand on the beach.