Best Coast

Always Tomorrow

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Best Coast's 2015 album California Nights was a huge sounding '90s-influenced statement that positioned the group on the verge of stadium stardom. After a five-year period of rethinking their music and personal lives, the duo return with a record that takes a less bombastic approach. Always Tomorrow is a more musically diverse record that flows from Weezer-y punk-pop ("Everything Has Changed") to smoothed-out HAIM-style pop ("For the First Time") with stops at girl group melancholy ("True") and bopping new wave ("Seeing Red") along the way. Producers Carlos de la Garza and Justin Meldal-Johnsen work with the band to sand off any remaining rough edges, which is no shock after how slick California Nights felt. At the same time, they scale back the scope of the songs overall to make it feel like a step back from bouncing around hockey arenas and instead filling a big club. It's a less ambitious, slightly more intimate approach that fits more with the very personal lyrics that detail Bethany Cosentino's recovery and self-care process. She quit a few vices in the years between recordings and shifted around some priorities too; she's not shy about detailing the fine points of the changes she's been through. At length. Over and over and over again. In fact, every song covers the same ground of confession and contrition with a fine-toothed comb. So much so that about halfway through the record, it gets to be too much. No amount of hooky guitar breaks from Bobb Bruno or fist-pumping choruses or cheerfully familiar chord progressions are enough to distract from the numbing sameness of the lyrical content. The only way it might have worked is if the music was thrilling in some way -- it isn't -- or if Cosentino ever dropped the slacker drawl vocal style she uses to deliver each self-obsessed observation. There are a few spots where she actually breaks through and does some singing that sounds like there's real emotion driving it, like on "Make It Last." More often than not, she buries her more expressive voice in the background, which helps contribute to the weird muted feeling much of the album has. It's not all bad; some songs like the moody "Used to Be," which feels like a continuation of California Nights' sound, or "Rollercoaster," which sports a fun baggy groove, point in a positive direction. Mostly, though, the album is a little too close to boring to make it worth more than half a spin. Maybe broken into a series of singles or a couple of EPs it would have been more palatable, but in this form it's just too samey and underwhelming to make much of an impression.

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