When searching for the ultimate summer album, the key components to keep an ear out for are sunny, upbeat and fun melodies that are filled to the brim with hooks and never get too obtuse or complicated. Should be simple enough, right? After all, there’s got to be a reason why Katy Perry and her “California Gurls” are so popular at the moment. The issue with pop music like that though is how it’s spoon-fed to the masses using the “tricks of the trade”, forcing songs on you via radio and video exposure rather than letting the public choose for themselves what’s good. It’s a tragedy, and it takes away from other great artists that might be making even better music. Robyn is one person who comes to mind. The other is Bethany Cosentino. She’s the frontwoman for a little trio known as Best Coast, and their debut album “Crazy For You” is perhaps the hottest thing to come out of this summer and that’s despite soaring temperatures.
What makes “Crazy For You” so attractive is the sincere charm it oozes out of every musical pore. Cosentino is quite the personality as evidenced by both a highly entertaining Twitter account and a live show that’s simply a blast to watch. She writes songs that tend to deal with four basic subjects: boys, weed, summer, and her (awesome) cat Snacks. Her lyrics are immensely straightforward, as you learn from the very first track “Boyfriend”, where the deceptively simple line “I wish he was my boyfriend” gets repeated enough that it stuck in your head less than halfway through the 2.5 minute song. That’s the sort of thing that happens not just once, but several times across the entire record. Over half of the dozen songs on “Crazy For You” are catchy and light enough to be singles, even as they traverse through various stylistic shifts. Guitarist Bobb Bruno is responsible for many of the melodies that move anywhere from surf rock to garage rock and through classically informed 60’s pop. It’s a little bit of an adjustment from the first couple Best Coast EPs released last year, which pushed pretty hard on the fuzzy lo-fi aesthetic. Now that lo-fi has all but been shown the door and Best Coast has a record label’s financial backing to actually record something with clarity, they jump at the chance and the results have turned out better than most might have anticipated. By placing Cosentino’s vocals front and center on close to every song, she moves up into a league with notables like Liz Phair and (pre-drugs) Courtney Love, both of whom have established strong reputations for emotionally affective and tonally strident singing. Blunt honesty also comes along with that territory, and though you can’t imagine Cosentino writing a song like “Fuck and Run”, she doesn’t mean it any less when singing a line like “I want you so much”.
The barbs thrown Best Coast’s way largely have to do with a lack of sonic and subject matter diversity. Apparently writing a bunch of songs about hook-ups, break-ups and make-ups gets stale rather quickly, despite the fact that there are already millions more tracks that deal with that exact same subject matter. Hell, leveling that complaint about Best Coast is like saying The Beatles weren’t very good because of all those damn songs they wrote about love. Besides that, “Crazy For You” is a mere 31 minutes long, with only one track barely scraping above the 3 minute mark. You’re not going to get a full length album much shorter than that, so the same-ness of the record bothers you, take comfort that it will be over in the amount of time it takes you to sit through an episode of your favorite sitcom.
At this point in time we’re about 1/3rd of the way through the official summer season. Temperatures are scorching hot more often than not, and you can feel free to hang out at the beach provided it doesn’t rain too much. It’s somewhat telling that the cover art of “Crazy For You” features a beach-like animated scene of water and palm trees and sun, with Cosentino’s cat Snacks hanging out in the middle of it. This is the perfect sort of album to listen to in one of those sunny, oceanside situations whether you have a cat with you or not. In other words, it’s THE summer record of 2010. It’s also one of the year’s best. Please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. With the weather like it is right now, the sooner the better.