California-based surf-rock duo Best Coast released its new EP “Fade Away” on Oct. 22 to little fanfare. Music magazine SPIN called the seven-track mini-album “Ambien-inspired,” while NME compared singer Bethany Cosentino’s vocals to a “snail-paced Jenny Lewis.”
Leaving behind a previous low-intensity, lo-fi and feel-good sound, “Fade Away” is a much more serious lyrical exercise backed by more percussion and melodic guitar riffs.
Best Coast boasts an overall aesthetic unlike any other band (except perhaps Camera Obscura): sweetly singing about love, cats, weed, the West Coast and lazing around on long summer days.
There’s such a marked difference between “Fade Away” and the band’s first EP, “Make You Mine” — as if Cosentino finally figured out that her voice sounded just fine without mixing the vocals way down with muted guitar.
The EP starts off with “This Lonely Morning,” a dance-y, poppy lament about waking up alone and struggling to keep it all together — “I don’t feel fine / I can’t walk in a straight line.” It’s nearly impossible not to at least tap your feet along to the fast-paced syncopated beat.
The next track, “I Wanna Know,” is your typical “tell me if you love me” song, but somehow evokes early Weezer, one of the bands Cosentino acknowledges as a major influence.
“Who Have I Become?” is probably one of Best Coast’s strongest tracks, lyrically speaking. It begins as Cosentino sings, “I want to be somebody else / Sick of myself and how I feel / Don’t recognize who I see in the morning / Used to be so clear.”
It’s easy here to compare Cosentino to Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley fame, but she also sounds like a less pop-punk version of Paramore’s Haley Williams if Williams ditched the loud, whirling guitars that Cosentino avoids.
The fourth track, “Fear of My Identity,” is one of the most forgettable. It’s somewhat sleepy and dripping with heartbreak but still too up-tempo to serve as break-up music.
The eponymous song, “Fade Away,” slows down considerably as Cosentino sings, “I want to sleep / but all I do is dream” against a guitar track that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Jimmy Eat World album — think “23” off the Mesa-based band’s “Futures” album.
“Baby I’m Crying” doesn’t distinguish itself from Best Coast’s numerous slow songs. Cosentino’s voice, while lovely, is often too delicate and has difficulty carrying longer songs to the finish line. Most of the truly successful singles, from any Best Coast album, are shorter than three minutes — “Boyfriend” clocks in at two and a half minutes long, while “When I’m With You” is just under the three-minute mark.
The final track, “I Don’t Know How” is yet another heartbreak anthem that inches along toward the abrupt introduction of a bass line and drums after a minute and a half.
There’s something imminently appealing about Best Coast’s simple melodies and wistfully lo-fi sound. Disregarding a lackluster track or two, “Fade Away” is a fun and enjoyable mini-album that belongs in any indie/pop/surf-rock lover’s music collection.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @savannahkthomas