Early into barreling opener “This Lonely Morning”, Best Coast singer Bethany Cosentino half-sneers over rippled power-chords and a 1-2 drum beat “the haze is on my mind, I’m running from myself this time.” In the midst of a song preoccupied by escaping “the waiting”, the line is perfectly logical. No one wants “sameness” constantly following them, if there’s anything to truly be afraid of its monotony. And it’s those feelings of “sameness”, of jogging in place, that Best Coast attempt to escape on new “mini-album” Fade Away.
Sophomore LP The Only Place dodged criticisms of being “slick” and inert, many believing Jon Brion’s production work stymied Best Coast’s whirlwind pace. While Brion increased Crazy for You’s fidelity, he knew when to steer clear. Frequently Brion opted for the subtle flourish of a twinkling xylophone or stereo-panning guitar over some grand makeover. Leading up to the release, Cosentino neatly summarized Fade Away, “kind of it you took Crazy for You and the Only Place and created a baby out of them.” Fade Away is that offspring, embracing former’s ragged place while finding value in the latter’s careful consideration.
The increased musicianship The Only Place hinted at is further developed here. An entreating tambourine on countdown “Fear of My Identity” widens Best Coast’s percussive palate. Closer “I Don’t Know How” unfurls as a ballad, with the start-stop rhythm section adding to Cosentino’s confusion. After a dour first minute, it collapses. Ticking down an agonizing few seconds, “I Don’t Know How” reconstitutes as a punk vamp. Wisely “Fade Away”s propulsion is stunted, opting for a steady grower instead of a race to the finish line. A slower pace gives Cosentino’s vocals time to stretch out, gliding atop chugging guitars and thudding drums “sometimes I see, the person that’s inside of me, she’s real, she’s mean.” The greatest measure of increased growth to be found is Cosentino’s comfortability in moving from “brawlers” to “bawlers” with ease.
An evolving musical identity is only one half of the equation though. Lyrically Cosentino remains in her wheelhouse. An admission of “my life has come, and gone so fast, I don’t remember much” during gentrified country tune “Baby I’m Crying” is eerily similar to “Last Year”s confession “I just don’t know where time has gone”. Other elements continue to carry the weight of the past. A title like Fade Away isn’t a far cry from master of teen melodrama Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”. Most bizarrely, there’s a brief interpolation of West Side Story in “I Wanna Know”, (“it’s alarming how charming you can be”). Cosentino promises a forgotten past in “Baby I’m Crying”, but Fade Away shows she’s held on to more than a few memories.
One of the great paradoxes of Best Coast’s work is the doubt on permanent display, when the songcraft is so assured. Lodging allegations of “sameness” or accusing Cosentino and instrumentalist Bobb Bruno of playing it safe is reductive. They’ve found a working formula; sticky melodies that often mask a bitter pill of confusion. “I won’t change, I’ll the stay the same” Cosentino bellows on the title track. Fade Away doesn’t escape the feelings of “sameness” because it doesn’t have to. It’s found shelter in the familiar, and for a release modestly billed as a “mini-album” that’s enough of a success.