California boosters Best Coast are back with their fourth and most introspective album to date, Always Tomorrow. Singer Bethany Cosentino continues treading the topics of insecurity and self-doubt, but Always Tomorrow is defined by her personal development, which includes her new levels of self-acceptance and gratitude.
Another defining characteristic of Always Tomorrow is her and co-founding bandmate Bobb Bruno’s inflated rock sound. The album overflows with tidal riffs, swooping choruses, and thumping tempos, polished by subtly glimmering synths and smooth production. Opening track “Different Light” reflects all these details. “Who am I to judge if you still see things in a different light?” Cosentino asks diplomatically.
On “Everything Has Changed,” whose anthemic thump recalls former showmates Weezer’s “Beverly Hills,” she describes the before-and-after of her idealized life, from the reckless abandon of debaucherous youth, when she drank nothing but water and whiskey, to a more settled life of walking her dog, living “in a big, big house,” and cooking for two every day.
“Everything Has Changed” also addresses the criticisms and bullying Cosentino has faced. “I used to cry myself to sleep reading all the names they called me. Used to say that I was lazy, a lazy, crazy baby. Did they think that maybe I was in on it?” But even though she references her critics, on “Wreckage,” she still ponders, “No one’s saying that I’ve got so be perfect, so why do I keep pushing myself?”
Both “Everything Has Changed” and “Wreckage” also touch on writer’s block. “If everything’s okay, then what the hell do I complain about?” she sings on the former. And on the latter: “I wanted to move on, but I kept writing the same songs.”
Imposter syndrome fully sets in on “Graceless Kids.” “Who am I to keep preaching to the graceless kids of tomorrow? They need a hero, not a wreck. I’m just a phony in a floral print dress,” she sings, dressing herself down.
Cosentino also rebukes herself for being stuck in old habits and patterns, like staying in bed too long or falling for guys who can’t figure out what they want. But she does celebrate the progress she has made, too. On the springy, whimsical, and clear-eyed “Feel Like Myself Again,” she seems renewed: “On Friday nights, I don’t spend too much time lying on the bathroom floor like I used to. The demons deep inside of me, they might have finally been set free. And I guess this is what they mean when they say people can change, ‘cause I finally feel free. I feel like myself again, but for the first time.” The song is about as far away as Best Coast can get from their past numbers like “Why I Cry,” on which hopelessly sings, “Look to the future, nothing’s there. Don’t know why I even care. Walk around in a haze. Seems to be the way I spend my days. I’m stuck in the gray.”
Musically, Always Tomorrow is a long way from Best Coast’s distortion-drenched lo-fi beginnings. Thematically, though, Cosentino is still grappling with the issues that have always gnawed at her. But she’s a work in progress, and more and more, she’s getting the better of her insecurities. And as for all the times they topple her, there’s always tomorrow.
review by Leslie Chu