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Album review: Best Coast plateaus in ‘Fade Away’

AR_BestCoastAs apt a title “Fade Away” is for the third EP from Best Coast, in the fact that it is lovably basic in a fashion that only this band can really do, it does establish a sort of bleak tone.

Though far from their next big record, the Best Coast on “Fade Away” is the same they have always been, entailing lyrical themes of yearning for love now and lost combined with the same Green-Day-infused surf-pop. “Fade Away” proves further that Best Coast have plateaued in its space.

According to its press release mentioned by Claire Lobenfeld over at Stereogum, Best Coast’s new EP “Fade Away” cites the likes of classic country singer Patsy Cline and shoegaze heavyweights My Bloody Valentine, with some Mazzy Star to stick it together. Such a diverse list composed of those types of influences would probably entail a record to be reckoned with. But is this record as such, or are these artist-influences being utilized as buzzwords to imply a changed band?

This review is not going to be a parsing of “Fade Away” in regards to how much it actually reflects these influences, but just as soon as I read the clip from its press release, I was an instant skeptic. This comes considering that the sound of Best Coast, made up of lead singer/guitarist Bethany Cosentino and guitarist Bobb Bruno, has seen little adulteration. It’s surf-heavy pop-rock, suitable for sunny summer days.

Although a shallow analysis, it is not completely unfounded. After Best Coast’s magnificent lo-fi debut “Crazy For You” in 2010, the band slipped away. This debut almost risked being an aimless set of songs that run together, but its lo-fi aesthetics proved rapturous. It was a new lens in pop-rock that supported its otherwise common songwriting in a manner that was unheard before. This was not to last, as two years later, its 2012 follow-up, “The Only Place,” was surely Best Coast true to form, but seemed to lack the artist’s soul.

To harken the aforementioned influences, there are peculiar moments picked up with a keener ear that may very well be picked up. “I Wanna Know” has some underlying shoegaze guitar work. That said, the influences are subtle if present at all.

Additionally, the simplicity and repetition that dominates the Cosentino portfolio hasn’t shifted here on “Fade Away.” Over the course of this record, Best Coast presents something we’ve come to know from them; love in its hardships and implications, “missing you,” (not) being in love, being lonely — all songs that describe the very basic music vernacular.

That said, there are songs of note on “Fade Away” that hold moments that may be worth holding on to. These songs, “Who Have I Become?” and “I Don’t Know How” do not so much reflect change or even comfort in their atmospheres, but rather just the fact that the Cosentino songwriting is successful on these tracks. The songs illustrate the basic element of Best Coast that probably have made the band as enduring as it is: sun-tinged candor.

The former breaches the seldom-seen four-minute mark, without overdoing it or executing a god-awful double-bridge routine. This song is relatively thematic, pulling back in pre-chorus mode for a Cosentino bellow to be followed with an opposite chorus.

“Fade Away’s” closer – “I Don’t Know How” – is catchy balladry, and I suppose this is where Patsy Cline comes to light. Despite age-old lyrical lines, it comes off as a grandiose re-imagination of Cosentino’s characteristic longing. It could have lingered in the area in which the introduction sits, as it does have strong crescendo, making a turn into something more upbeat than the song feels it ought to be.

Missing the lo-fi of “Crazy For You,” is a meaningless expense of emotion at this point. As whether we like it or not, it’s gone, and if “Fade Away” and its predecessor “The Only Place” indicate anything, it’s that Best Coast’s music is not undergoing that filter any longer. “Fade Away” is not packed with jarring influences, brazen sounds or groundbreaking changes on Cosentino’s part. Rather, this record is just standard Best Coast — not for worse, but certainly not for better.

Grade: C+

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