“I became a little bit more rebellious,” says 25-year-old Bethany Cosentino of her band Best Coast’s new album, The Only Place (Mexican Summer), the follow-up to the L.A.-based duo’s critically acclaimed 2010 debut, Crazy For You. “With our last record, everyone wanted to know who the songs were about or how much I loved my cat. This one is more, ‘Are you okay?’ ” Indeed, even Cosentino’s cat, Snacks, became a star after appearing in the cover art for Crazy For You, which climbed into the Top 40 and made numerous year-end best-of lists with its fuzzed-out surf jangle and girl-group romance on hooky songs like “Boyfriend.” In short order, Cosentino and her bandmate, 38-year-old multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno, shot from indie semi-obscurity to better-known quantity. Thankfully, The Only Place turns those growing pains into artful pop.
Produced by studio guru Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright, Kanye West), The Only Place glows with incandescent guitars and Cosentino’s bracing vocals, which are no longer buried in reverb. Sunshine melodies, however, belie a tougher core. “With this record I wanted two things: to emotionally vomit on the listener and to express myself with my voice in a way I never have,” Cosentino explains. “I needed to be honest with people.” That’s clear on defiant tracks like “How They Want Me To Be,” a song about decidedly 21st-century communication blues. “It’s about bands and critics telling me on the Internet how I should be,” Cosentino notes. “Yesterday, I admitted to liking Skrillex, and it became this whole thing on Twitter. It’s ridiculous. I have to remember I can’t go out with my friends like nothing has changed, because then you’ll see a picture of me drunk on the sidewalk everywhere. So the song is my reaction to how everything in the world is accessible to everyone.”
Still, ubiquity has its perks: Urban Outfitters recently asked Cosentino to design a line that reflects her personal style. “It’s the most fun,” she says. “A young girl came up to me at one of my shows. She had the same haircut and outfit as me and said, ‘You’re my fashion icon.’ Music got me into fashion. I started shopping at thrift stores and punk places on Melrose to dress in my own way, and style has always been a part of who I am.” That forwardly mobile ambition comes across loud and clear on The Only Place. “In the beginning, I was so shy and awkward and afraid to say no,” Cosentino says. “I could’ve made another record about a girl just wanting a guy, but instead I’m exploring how I’ve changed. If anything, I’m sassier and brattier now—but in a more mature way.”
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