Kicking off Always Tomorrow with an upbeat and catchy beach punk track “Different Light”, Best Coast‘s latest album quickly settles into a comfortable cruise early on and doesn’t let up. The record is at turns high energy and leisurely. Ultimately, the band move beyond their lo-fi surfer pop origins and deliver an empowering statement about personal growth that hits differently with each listening.
Clocking in at three minutes and 12 seconds, the album’s opener “Different Light” reminds listeners of Best Coast’s early days. The song’s upbeat tempo and newly acquired perspective recall “New Direction” by the Black Lips, with a touch of the Go-Gos for good measure. The next track, “Everything Has Changed” deepens the band’s focus on personal redemption and newly realized hope with lyrics like, “I used to drink / Nothing but water and whiskey” and “Now I live in a big pink house / I escape to Witch Mountain every day.” The mid-tempo 1990s romp showcases slick riffage and a close sonic affinity with Weezer and the Rentals.
Mixing melodies and accents harkening back to early Haim and even 1980s bands like Toto and Big Country with a message that just about anyone can get behind, “For the First Time” is a shimmering pop song bursting with optimism and melancholic reflection. “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,” songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist Bethany Cosentino sings. It’s a message people in their early 30s who let their demons take over in their 20s can get behind.
What clicks so well is the band’s knack for blending instrumentation with vocal harmonies, a Californian, neon synesthesia that doesn’t quit. Take the intro to “Graceless Kids”, which eventually becomes the backdrop to the track’s glowing chorus. Cosentino comes off as a Voyager-era Jenny Lewis, completely aware of her iconic status as “the Queen of the graceless kids”. The song reminds us that even being iconic can be drag.
“Wreckage” starts with a downward cascade of guitars and then pushes forward in keeping with the album’s theme of a tailspin that leads to growth. The lyrics point to unhealthy impulses and habits from which we can’t easily free ourselves. The next song “Rollercoaster” features echoing vocal effects, a killer bassline, fuzz rock guitar, and 1960s organ recalling the acid rock and psychedelia of the Beatles’ “She Said”.
All about taking control of your own life, “Master of My Own Mind” easily stands out as one of my favorite Best Coast songs. The next song “True” is bittersweet sunset of a slow jam with echoes of Shannon and the Clams, while “Seeing Red” reminds listeners that heartbreak is something they can emerge from as more resilient people.
The album’s closer “Used to Be” is a powerful breakup song about “accepting the unknown”, a fitting send-off to an addicting suite of pop songs about love, loss, and moving on.