The blossoming of L.A.’s Best Coast has been something to behold. When Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno first convened in ’09, it was to deliver a scruffy, lo-fi take on surf-pop and girl group sound of the 1960s. They toured with the like-minded Vivian Girls, and enjoyed a flush of alt-hipness.
Their second album, 2012′s The Only Place, however, was recorded at Capitol Records’ Studio B (a flagrant Beach Boys connection, there), with Jon Brion, who helped them upgrade from indie shamble to bold, widescreen pop, with even a strong flavor of Laurel Canyon folk for good measure. Fade Away is another giant step toward musical maturity, spiritually harking back more to the Ramones-y sound of old, but with far greater assurance and accomplishment. Each of its seven tracks upholds the thrilling energy of three-minute pop-punk, but is also now deftly structured, and arranged with real songwriting savvy.
If Crazy For You was largely an album about being in love, Fade Away documents a relationship on the skids. On opener “This Lonely Morning,” Cosentino is tearing her hair out in her lover’s absence. On “I Wanna Know,” she weighs up a no-win situation, ultimately deciding, “It’s time to say, baby, goodbye.”
Tracks like “Fear Of My Identity” boast fabulous echoes of the big drum beats and soaring choruses of Phil Spector’s mid-’60s productions for The Ronettes and The Crystals. But on that song, as well as on “Who Have I Become?”, Cosentino writes from the perspective of a self-defining young woman, rather than the chanteuses for whom Spector dictatorially provided a script. She and Bobb also spice up the sound with some electricity from the Jesus & Mary Chain/Shop Assistants era, and come the fabulous shift in tempo midway through the concluding “I Don’t Know How,” you can hear Best Coast hitting new heights.