Best Coast's second studio effort, The Only Place, doesn't try to reinvent the wheel. In fact, it picks up where its predecessor, Crazy For You, left off, only this time there are subtle studio flourishes alongside the liberal helping of teenage angst. Musically, Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno may use a certain amount of misdirection. On first inspection the record glistens with a glint of Californian sun but, once you've scratched the surface, there's an underbelly of heartbreak and dysfunctional relationships.
Perhaps the most obvious example is 'No One Like You' which is seemingly carefree with its sedate drums and waltz rhythm wrapped in shimmering guitars, however, Cosentino uses it as a vehicle to portray an abusive relationship ("Know that you don't mean to say things that hurt me and drive me to my knees"); but the protagonist is strangely subservient despite recognising her problems which makes the song even more heartbreaking in its delivery.
That level of sophistication isn't mined to quite the same extent elsewhere, as the album veers from nostalgic, feel-good surf pop ('The Only Place') to the more contemplatative ('Do You Love Me Like You Used To?'). But what is apparent throughout is the improved studio techniques utilised by Jon Brion to give a cleaner sound than 2010's Crazy For You; there's also the odd addition to the bands instrumental repetoire such as the backing to 'My Life'. Cosentino's voice sits front and centre throughout rather than masking her multi-part harmonies with lo-fi distortion - here they're used to much better effect. For example, the opening harmonies to 'How They Want Me To Be' sound like The Beach Boys, while the latter part of 'Last Year' has a hint of Marianne Faithful.
Amongst the catchy guitar riffs that at times bring to mind the feel-good urgency of The Ramones, there's a real love of California infused into the lyrics. The references to mountains and trees on the title track are echoed on 'Let's Go Home' which give a real sense of heart and nostalgia to the material. The record ends on a more ominous sounding note, however, as Cosentino contemplates being alone, awake and afraid on 'Up All Night'. It's a far cry from the partying that the title could suggest but it undelines the more emotionally bare moments that are explored during The Only Place.
As a follow up to a debut that garnered much attention, The Only Place succeeds in using the same formula as Vampire Weekend and The Fleet Foxes have previously. It tinkers with a familiar sound without pushing the envelope too far to alienate a growing fanbase. While some listeners may feel the duo are treading water and could criticise the abundance of teenage angst on show, there's very little wrong with The Only Place. Sensibly, it refines the bands sound without making it feel like a disappointment.
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