Best Coast has obviously never been shy about which coast their loyalties lie with, and their third album, California Nights, serves to make it all the more evident. Even the release date for the record, May 5th a.k.a. Cinco de Mayo, smacks of some vague reference to the Mexicanness of California (note their record label used to be Mexican Summer). To be sure, the vehemence of both the title and the album cover defy any of its listeners not to fall in love with the Golden State (which is what mongos often refer to as the Sunshine State. No, that's Florida).
The sympathetic, understanding vocals of the opening track, "Feeling Ok," show us why we keep coming back to lead singer Bethany Cosentino for more: because she gets us and knows our lovelornness inside and out. Admitting, "I know someday you'll find it where I least expect it/When I get down, I get so down/But I'll keep trying to stay this way/But I know it's love that's got me feeling okay," Cosentino expresses the fear of losing a love that makes her feel halfway decent.
"Fine Without You" offers the flip side of Cosentino's personality: the independent, jilted lover who finds herself preferring life without her former object of her affection. She goads, "I know it's hard, I know it's hard to understand/The situation's out of your hands." Free of the emotional tyranny of another, Cosentino sounds at her most self-assured on this song.
"Heaven Sent," the third track, picks up the pace while still sustaining the melancholic, angst-ridden aura of Cosentino. The accompanying video features her wearing a Lana Del Rey-esque flower garland on her head and lamenting, "When you were gone, I wasn't good/I wasn't fine/I woke up in the morning losing my mind."
"In My Eyes" is an ardent appeal to the one Cosentino wronged as she wails, "What hurts the most is that you're gone and it hasn't even been that long/But you're in my eyes, you're in my eyes"--presumably "eyes" means, you know, like "mind's eye."
"So Unaware" is the closest Best Coast is capable of getting to philosophical examination, though, of course, that examination still stems from obsession with another. Cosentino mourns, "I can't get you out of my head/I stay awake, I stay alone/And I don't even answer my phone," continuing on an existential rant by demanding, "What is life? What is love? What's the meaning of it all/Do I even care or is just that I am so unaware?" We never quite get any answers.
The self-exploratory "When Will I Change" finds Cosentino grieving over the notion that the more time passes, the less adult she feels, singing, "The weight of the world crashes down on my shoulders/I'm a big girl now, but I don't feel much older." And again, "visions of love," to use the phrase Cosentino semi-borrows from Mariah Carey, are ultimately what seem to be driving her batty.
Unlike the Queen song of the same name, "Jealousy" is not so much about a lover being jealous of her significant other, but of the inability of the two of them to get along. Case in point: "We've been trying to get along, respect one another/And after all this time, we still fight over the small things/Why don't you like me?/What's with the jealousy?"
The dreamy, surreal title track, "California Nights," echoes the sentiments of most Californians and beyond in terms of the inherent need to remain numb at all times (typically via weed). Though, of course, one assumes Cosentino is also speaking from a metaphorical standpoint when she says, "I stay high all the time just to get by/I climb to the sky/And my eyes, they cry/California nights make me feel so happy I could die."
The beat picks up again with "Fading Fast," yet again employing the ironic musical tactic of pairing a fast tempo with morose lyrics. This time, the woe stems from the fact that: "This love will be the death of me and you'll always be a part of me/I see you when I close my eyes and I wish that I could realize/I know this love is fading past/I know that I can't change the past."
"Run Through My Head" expresses a common theme in love: one person moving on while the other hasn't been able to--and yet the former party is still willing to call up the latter when he's desperate enough or in need of some quick sexual relief. Cosentino breaks it down with: "You only call me when you're all alone/And I don't know why I pick up the phone/Guess I'm lonely and you are too." Her sadness reaches a zenith when she waxes, "It's a mystery why you left/I don't know why I'm second best."
"Sleep Won't Ever Come" is something of an homage to Green Day's "Brain Stew," though from a much softer, more feminine perspective. Like Billy Joe Armstrong, Cosentino's "eyes feel like they're gonna bleed" as she bemoans, "I've tried it all, I've tried it all/My brain just wants to fall asleep/Sleep won't ever come, sleep won't ever come to me." Searching for someone else to blame for her insomnia, she waxes, "I blame it on the moon, I blame it on my mood/I blame it on the world 'cause he can be so cruel."
The heady conclusion to California Nights, "Wasted Time," serves a dual purpose: 1) to tell the listener in a roundabout way, "I waited for you at the end" and 2) refer to a lover that wasted her time by noting, "I don't really mind all of this wasted time/Just wish that I had something to show for it." Indeed, what Best Coast has to show for it, once again, is an amazingly listenable album culled from heartache and California sunshine. Though one wonders where guitarist Bobb Bruno's emotions are in all of this.