Every Best Coast Song, Ranked
Bobb Bruno and Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast
Courtesy of the artist
In 2009, in the aftermath of Bush and the emergence of cutesy cultural icons like Zooey Deschanel, when cat videos on YouTube were getting more views than the State of the Union, indie rock began embracing the daftness of the times. A rejection of hyper-intellectual acts like LCD Soundystem resulted in a wave of bands that turned lo-fi into a national brand: Dum Dum Girls, Wavves, Ty Segall, Beach Fossils. Cassette-hawking record labels were growing; genres like "beach goth" became a thing.
Against this backdrop came the indomitable rise of Best Coast, a duo born in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley, who mixed plainspoken lyrics and '60s girl-group pastiche with Spectorian professionalism. Avoiding any of the cheeky humor or fey detachment of their contemporaries, Best Coast was heart-on-sleeve authentic — which turned out to be highly bankable. When Best Coast's debut album Crazy for You (2010) landed at No. 36 on the Billboard 200, their detractors thought it was a glitch in the system. Best Coast had broken into the mainstream despite — or because of — songs that rhymed "lazy" with "crazy."
Two full-length albums, one mini-album, and countless 7-inches and EPs later, Best Coast has become one of the most polarizing bands in the country. Pasty Brooklynites and critics at The New Yorker think they're the indie-rock version of the Eagles, but to the sun-soaked teenage girl who gets stoned, Best Coast is The Beatles, or what MTV once described as "Taylor Swift for stoners."
Singer-guitarist Bethany Cosentino is a gifted melodist, but her songwriting remains purposefully teen-oriented. As a result, criticism of Best Coast has lacked depth. Reviews of their albums often sound like goofy weather reports, or For Dummies guides on their purported influences.
I decided to buck this trend and consume the Best Coast canon like a proper music snob, looking for a deeper understand of a band that has, for far too long, been microscopically examined by lifestyle-journos prattling on about cats, sunshine and Cosentino's lack of literary prowess. (Being from the Valley myself, I also felt uncomfortable with the assumption that we're all empty-headed caricatures of Spicoli or Cher.)
So for one month, I listened to every single Best Coast song and tried to focus primarily on their sound, rather than their lyrics. My intent was to rank their songs from best to worst — and, I hoped, become a bigger fan in the process.
I decided to exclude any covers, remixes, or collaborations with others artists. When a song was released twice, I included what I believed to be the better version. From their upcoming album California Nights, I only included the three released singles (out of fairness to the band and their label).
The following 54 songs include everything Best Coast released between 2009-2015, from their first official single, "Sun Was High (So Was I)," right up to "Feeling OK" off California Nights.
54."Do You Love Me Like You Used To" - The Only Place (2012)
Carrie Brownstein once referred to Best Coast as a "grunge band." This track is more like some schmaltzy overreach — an overproduced quasi-standard with a recycled chord progression that's inescapably formulaic. The Eagles playing fake cowboy rock sounded more authentic. This is Best Coast's fuddy-duddy nod to squares like Lawrence Welk, or a house-band on a cruise boat.
53."Mean Girls" - The Only Place (bonus track) (2012)
While octave range isn't usually that important in assessing Best Coast, here, when Cosentino stretches her vocals towards her upper register, it sounds like she's approaching Taylor Swift butchering "Rhiannon" territory. "Mean Girls" also includes the most unnervingly shitty chorus Cosentino has ever written.
52. "California Nights" - California Nights (2015)
With an accompanying video that borders on self-parody — cacti, palm trees, a cat, and all the trappings of a PacSun dressing room — Best Coast turned their major label debut into some bargain basement attempt at being grandiose. A lot of people like this song, but only Katy Perry and Lisa Marie-era Michael Jackson ever managed to spoil a good tune with such thoughtless images to accompany it.
51. "When You Wake Up" - Summer is Forever [Wavves, Best Coast and No Joy] (2011)
It starts out like a pleasantly strummy Weezer track, but "When You Wake Up" quickly turns lyrical repetition into an instrument of death: "It's always 11:30/When you wake up," never needs to be spoken again. This is also a schlock song about a boyfriend sleeping in — not exactly Gershwin, or even Billy Joel.
50. "Last Year" - The Only Place (2012)
After two years of being cudgeled by critics for her trite lyricism, while feeling drained by stardom, Cosentino's neuroses got the best of her. She wrote "Last Year" as a self-conscious journal-entry consisting of heart-on-sleeve vulnerability, and bratty "da-da-da's" that sound too off-Broadway for Best Coast.
49. "Gloomy" - Where the Boys Are (2009)
A prototype of a Best Coast song, this track has all the resonance of water-damaged earbuds. No drums, not even a programmable floppy disk version of a beat. You barely hear a melody buried beneath a poorly recorded Cosentino — who sounds like she's singing into a seashell.
48. "Angsty" - Where the Boys Are (2009) / reissued on The Only Place (bonus track) (2012)
Of the two versions of "Angsty," the 2009 version does a better job of bottling the nail-biting obsessiveness of Cosentino when she says, "It's overwhelming how much I hate everything." It turns out a boy is her only salvation, which isn't as much post-feminism, as it is a paean to '60s girl groups like The Crystals and The Ronettes.
47. "Why I Cry" - The Only Place (2012)
Cosentino harmonizing under her own lead vocals is part of Best Coast's sound. But the instrumentation on this track is too dry, and the sparse guitar and cold snare leaves Cosentino rudderless — she sounds like a toothless Hannah Montana backing up Miley Cyrus.
46. "Better Girl" - The Only Place (2012)
Bobb Bruno's countrified guitar riff supports Cosentino's funless diatribe, who puts an accent on "no fun," to emphasize her Valley Girl chutzpah — which she wears on her sleeve, so to speak. Cosentino says "no fun" 12 times in three minutes to make a point that she's sensitive to criticism. "Better Girl" is the opposite of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." A decent guitar track.
45. "My Life" - The Only Place (2012)
"My Life" is a yet another Jenny Lewis-tinged track off the The Only Place, that unfortunately comes off like a polished impersonation of Bethany Sharayah doing alt-country (that's Bethany's former MySpace alias). The endearing quality of Cosentino's voice is downright sterilized here; too much treble for my liking.
44. "Space Baby" - Where the Boys Are (2009)
The closest thing to psychedelic punk in the Best Coast canon, "Space Baby" is a song that lacks a clear narrative, and frankly, it doesn't even sound like Best Coast. The vocal melody in the verse "Little, little space baby," with the syncopated "baby," sounds like Stevie Nicks fronting a proto-punk band — no tinkling or cuteness, just stoned lyricism and fuzz.
Johnn Novello, Tom Scott, Chris Standring
TicketsTue., Sep. 19, 8:30pm
Chin Up Kid, Morning in May
TicketsWed., Sep. 20, 7:00pm
Orphaned Land, Pain, Voodoo Kung Fu
TicketsThu., Sep. 21, 7:00pm
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
TicketsThu., Sep. 21, 7:30pm
Salute to John Coltrane
TicketsThu., Sep. 21, 8:30pm
43. "No One Like You" - The Only Place (2012)
Fifties pop balladeering that showcases a strong vocal performance. The melody in the verse sounds inspired by the steel guitar on Santo & Johnny's "Sleep Walk." If this was 1959, "No One Like You" would be a prom anthem.
42. "Far Away" - Far Away / Everyone's Gone 7-inch (2010)
The early Beatles influence is evident in this uptempo jam about a Valley Girl stuck in New York. "Far Away" includes a typical Best Coast attempt to make their drums sound like Ringo Starr's from "All My Loving." There's also a Nickelback song with same title. Guilt by association.
41. "Everyone's Gone" - Far Away / Everyone's Gone 7-inch (2010)
This foggy sludge of surf-rock is Cosentino's breakup song, on acid. "Everyone's Gone" punches you in the gut with nostalgia, bitterness, and hazy psychedelia that's purer than "California Nights."
40. "Honey" - Crazy for You (2010)
A more somber, Hole-ish recording that sounds a bit too similar to another Best Coast song, "Dreaming My Life Away," which makes them both less interesting.
39. "Boy" - Where the Boys Are (2009)
A 2:55 experiment with a guitar resembling a fading siren, and a nail-gun for a beat. The outro actually sounds like the finale of Pearl Jam's "Jeremy," once you get through all the murk.
38. "Dreaming My Life Away" - Single (2009) / The Only Place (2012)
"Dreaming My Life Away" was originally released in 2009 as a ghostly lullaby. In the original version, the bass drum and tambourine have a Wall of Sound-tinge that sounds haunting under the spooky melody. This is Best Coast scoring an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?
37. "When the Sun Don't Shine" - Crazy for You (2010)
Opens with Cosentino strumming a clean-sounding riff, singing "I just want to tell you/That I've always loved you." The chorus includes "oohs," and the bridge offers little, if any, dynamic variation. A fun song about sunshine and falling in love.
36. "Moody" - Where the Boys Are (2009)
A skeletal attempt by Best Coast to write droney stoner-punk. You can hear the Nirvana influence, too, especially in the sparse guitar that drives the grunge-y melody.
35. "The End" - Crazy for You (2010)
There's a breezy quality to this track that's classic pop, but like The Police's "Every Breath You Take," it hides the psycho-neurotic subtext of the words: "You say that we're just friends/But I want this till' the end." Separation anxiety is something Cosentino struggles with in countless Best Coast songs.
34. "Feeling of Love" - Make You Mine (2009)
A fuzzed-out love song for stoners. It's also a reminder of how hard it is to sleep when you're thinking about the opposite sex.
33. "Make You Mine" - Make You Mine (2009)
Driven by a grainy, Spectorian beat and catchy verse, with all the "ooh babies" you can handle in a ditty about turning friendship into romance, "Make You Mine" is the unofficial sequel to "Feeling of Love."
32. "This is Real" - When I'm With You 7" (2009)
About 20 seconds in, you hear a variation on Hal Blaine's "bom, bom-bom, bap" drum intro from The Ronettes "Be My Baby," which is sped-up on countless Best Coast songs. But Cosentino's vocal melody is the real centerpiece here, delivered with a sassy Lesley Gore "If That's The Way You Want It" style that interweaves nicely with all the classic tom-tom fills and girl-group production.
31. "Wish He Was You" - Something in the Way (2010)
The interplay between the guitars has a surf quality that saves this song from falling off a cliff. A solid tune to open a gig, one that captures their fuzzy Spector-meets-Beach Boys sound with immediacy, but never really leaves the shore for a proper journey.
30. "Something in the Way" - Something in the Way 7" (2010)
For the lo-fi purist, this sticks to the Best Coast blueprint of catchy girl-group vocals, bouncy drums, and enough fuzz to match the first Wavves record. For everyone else, its just another catchy Best Coast song about being boy-crazy.
29. "The Road" - Something in the Way 7" (2010)
With a scuzzy Muse-esque riff on the intro,"The Road" is a somber breakup ballad from a band that no longer sounds this depressing, ever.
28. "Fade Away" - Fade Away (2013)
On each of Fade Away's seven tracks, Cosentino's vocals seem to hang lower in her register, a la Miley Cyrus or Gwen Stefani. The result, especially on the title track, is a more textured expression of Best Coast than anything on The Only Place. This is the band Best Coast wants to be.
27. "I Want To" - Crazy for You (2010)
What starts off like a sing-along by the The Crystals, supported by a purposefully lifeless backbeat, turns into a quasi-Green Day burst of energy that crescendos into Best Coast's punkest 46 seconds on record.
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