REVIEW: Grass Widow – "Internal Logic"

There was a giant influx of throwback type bands a few years ago. It would be very easy to write Grass Widow as one of those bands, but that would be unfair. While they do share a similar aesthetic to those types of bands, they don’t rely on the gimmick as much as others do.

One of the bands strengths is the fantastic vocal harmonies. Raven Mahon (guitar), Hannah Lew (bass), and Lillian Maring (drums) share vocal duties. Generally all at once. This gives the relatively simple pop music a nice depth that is lacking in some of their contemporaries.
Musically, there is clear influence from a lot of things. You got some indie, surf, post-punk, and garage all filtered through some fuzzy indie pop. “A Light In The Static” serves as a great intermission track right in the middle. It features only guitar, and has a somewhat Latin (if not classical) feel to it. It is followed by a straight ahead fuzz rocker called “Spock On MUNI.” And therein lies the strength of this record. The great interplay between atmospheric tracks and straight ahead pop/rock tracks.
Basically, this is a document of a band honing in on their signature sound. Nothing about it would be out of place on their previous records (2009’s self titled and 2010’s Past Time). The band has a strength for writing bouncy, mid-tempo songs. It is a pleasure to see a band get better record to record. It is even better when they play to the strengths instead of trying to reinvent themselves and fucking up a good thing.

REVIEW: Best Coast – "The Only Place"

I don’t know, man. I was pretty fucking stoked on Crazy For You. I had a pretty good time seeing Best Coast live last year. I expected this record to be just as strong as the last one (and the multiple 7″ releases). Sadly, the record is more “ehhh” than anything else. It is not bad, but it isn’t particularly great either.

The shiny, surf pop songs are few and far between here. Still good pop, but more calm and mid tempo. It feels like the fun got sucked out of the band. The lyrics are pretty fucking plodding. The best part of Crazy For You was, despite being rather simple, the lyrics and vocals were full of hooks. Shit would just get stuck in your head, and you goddamn liked it. While I don’t expect great lyrics to come out of pop music, the things here are just repetitive. The Only Place seems, save for the titular song, to be rather depressing. While the last record had a similar vibe lyrically, the music made up for it. This record is just kind of a bummer.

Let it not be said that there is not good parts here. Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno still know how to write a good pop song. Bethany’s voice sounds pretty great on all these songs. Since the last record, she sounds a lot stronger vocally. Jon Brion’s production sounds pretty fucking great. He managed to get this to sound well produced without completely washing over the low-fi sound that the band is known for. It is cleaner, but not glossy.

Honestly, my biggest complaint with the whole thing is the clumsy lyrics. While it never falls victim to complete Henery the Eighth, I Am syndrome, it does get pretty fucking close. Repeating a line in a song is fine, but when the lion’s share is the same 2 and a half phrases repeated over and over again, like in “How They Want Me To Be,” it can get a little much. I don’t know.

I’m not ready to fully write this off as a sophomore slump. I’m thinking this record might be a grower. I mean, it is still a good summer record. Talk to me in August. We’ll know for sure by then.

Best Coast
Mexican Summer
Buy It

REVIEW: Best Coast – Crazy For You

“I lost my job, I miss my mom, I wish my cat could talk”

The hype around this band is huge. So huge that I had written the band off as yet another fucking “throwback” type band. You know, the kind that hipsters always end up being in love with. The whole kitsch thing always bothered me.

This album came out in late July, I did not hear it until around mid-October (mostly due to the insistence of my friend). Was the hype deserved? Eh, maybe. To a certain point, anyway.

Basically, you are looking at a throwback style indie pop record. So, all the trappings are there. low-fi, fuzzy guitars, 60’s influences vocals. The whole bit. What makes this stand out from similar bands, like Dum Dum Girls, is that this borrows more from Brian Wilson than it does the classic girl groups. The surf vibe gives it that California sound that this record was meant to have. Yeah, there are touches of garage, but mostly this is a surf pop record. That is mostly pretty awesome.

Lyrically, this is pretty simple. While some bands, let’s say Wavves, suffer from having overly simple lyrics, Best Coast seems to excel because of it. In the song Bratty B, the line “sorry I lost your favourite t-shirt. I’ll buy you a new one, a better one,” comes off sounding sincere rather than awkward and blunt. The quote that opens the review is from the song Goodbye, which is probably my favourite on the whole record. A whole lot of this record is written in the clear and succinct style found in classic pop music. The “I love you” and “I miss you” sentiments sound better that way to me. It worked for the Beach Boys, it worked for the Ramones, and it works for Best Coast

For the songs themselves, the opening song Boyfriend usually gets skipped. Same goes for Honey (though not skipped as much). To me the record seems more front loaded. The first six songs seem to be the best of the bunch. The latter six tracks have their moments, but all the strong, must listen songs are already over. This is a pretty common thing with music these days, I just do not get it. While the latter half is certainly not filler by any means, it just does not feel as strong (save for Bratty B, which is the stand out on the 2nd half).

More or less, the hype around this band was pretty spot on. Best Coast is not doing anything that has not been done before. Bethany Cosentino is obviously no Brian Wilson. For being a throwback type indie pop band, in a scene where there are plenty, Best Coast stands out. So, fuck it, lets say 4 out of 5. Yeah? This record is going to be on a lot of “Best Of 2010” lists, and it is totally fair.

Buy It.
Website (blog)