Best Coast return with Always Tomorrow following a lengthy hiatus, showcasing a playful and reinvigorated take on their sound that sees the welcome return of their surf rock roots, while continuing their transition into more pop-oriented territory.
With a name like Best Coast, shimmering sunny feels and the promise of good times are instantly conjured up in the listener’s mind – perhaps with a splash of bravado as well. It’s certainly an apt choice for the California duo consisting of Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno, who made their reverb-heavy full-length debut a decade ago with Crazy For You. Their output over the course of the last decade was relatively steady, with two albums following their first, the last before their hiatus being 2015’s well-received California Nights. Curiously, this makes Best Coast the latest addition to a string of acclaimed artists we haven’t heard much from since 2015 choosing to make their respective returns in 2020, including Grimes, Purity Ring, and Jaga Jazzist to name a few.
With 2020’s Always Tomorrow, Cosentino described a conscious letting go of the darkness in her life as being instrumental in shaping the album’s musical direction. With Best Coast‘s predilection for evolving their sound with each release, how they would sound after a five-year hiatus and Cosentino’s self-described new vision for her life was a question on my mind that a first spin of the album instantly answered: different, but the same.
Always Tomorrow begins triumphantly with the brilliant “Different Light”, a perfect synthesis of California Nights‘ vaguely pop punk aesthetic and Crazy for You’s surf sensibilities. In fact, with its ‘ooh-wah’ harmonizing, driving rhythms, and sharp guitar tone, this is the most 60s-inspired Best Coast have sounded since their debut, which is a resounding plus for me. While more polished and lacking the humidity of their first album, the track has a much welcome swagger about it, even while the overall tone does indeed seem more calm and at peace than on past output.
“Different Light” is also an effective opener for functioning as a solid showcase of what the album has to offer overall. From here, the sounds displayed on “Different Light” splinter off, with the tracks that follow it manifesting different dimensions of its aesthetic. “Rollercoaster” and “True” carry forward the 60s vibes, with “Rollercoaster” maximizing the swagger in a rollicking album highlight, and “True” dialing it down to a smoother, sunnier sizzle. Meanwhile, “Everything Has Changed”, “Master Of My Own Mind”, and “Make It Last” emphasize the band’s pop punk sense of fun with smooth production, catchy beats, and sing-along melodies perfectly crafted for road trips down long highways, and pool party barbecues.
You also get a few experiments. Nothing radically different than what Best Coast have written in the past, but certainly an evolution of their sound, such as on the relaxed Police-esque “For The First Time”, or the ‘B-52s-as-interpreted-by-Taylor Swift’ stomp of “Graceless Kids”. Finally, Always Tomorrow concludes grandly with “Used To Be”, its longest track and one that closes affairs with a deep dive into a dreamier shoegaze sound they’ve only seldom toyed with in the past. There’s a sense of closure to its tone that radiates proudly, and this track more than any other highlights the band’s shift in mindset.
While this is a very strong return for Best Coast, it’s not the explosive comeback “Different Light” initially suggested it would be. There’s a sense of urgency and flawlessness of execution to that track, which makes its place at the forefront of the album overshadow everything else in my view, regardless of the album’s overall enjoyability and songwriting prowess. I suppose this is also a positive. “Different Light” will almost certainly make my top 10 songs of the year, and I salute Best Coast for reintroducing a new body of art with such a statement.
I imagine the argument could be made that California Nights, with its more focused songwriting, longer compositions, and slightly harder edge is the better album. However, in my view, Always Tomorrow’s sense of uninhibited fun, stylistic diversity, and especially the welcome return of their earlier surf sound makes this by far the duo’s most listenable and enjoyable album yet. It’s only the beginning of Spring, but I’m already set with my Summer soundtrack, thanks to the very welcome return of Best Coast.