When you listen to Best Coast's debut album, Crazy for You, you're hearing singer Bethany Cosentino's life. Piles of reverb coat the Los Angeles native's songs about love, longing, and regret. There's also occasional giddiness thrown in there for good measure. Surf-pop guitars brush over her insecurities, while Bobb Bruno's scuzzy bass lines blare beneath it all.
Crazy for You is one of the most direct and honest albums of the year, laying out the life of a 23-year-old woman making her way through the best and worst of uncertain times. She deals with present-day concerns by looking back on a simpler part of her life. But Cosentino doesn't hide from her anxieties; instead, she proudly shares her emotions with anyone who wants to listen.
Not so surprisingly, many of Cosentino's mixed-up feelings have to do with boys — the ones she loves, the ones she longs for, the ones who left her behind, and the ones who'll break her heart. "You're the one for me/You make me happy," she sings in the garage rocker "Happy." Twenty seconds later, in the next song, she's pleading, "I just wish that you would tell me/Is this real, or are we through?"
But Cosentino also sings about her cat, weed, and fighting laziness. Throughout Crazy for You, her voice — a mix of sweetness and rebellion — makes her lyrics sound painfully real. In "When I'm With You," she repeats, "When I'm with you I have fun" more than 20 times. It's as straightforward as a Ke$ha song, encouraging fans to sing along. But it also prompts them to look back at their own crushes.
"The reason I write such simple lyrics is because I want them to be relatable to people," says Cosentino. "I don't have anything against metaphor, poetics, and fancy-schmancy language. I could easily write a song that's really obscure, and nobody would understand the references, and they would have to sit there and try to figure out what it means."
Besides, she'd rather write a song like "I Want to Hold Your Hand." She says when she was younger, she immediately connected with bands that wrote the most direct lyrics. "I would think, Oh my God, that's exactly how I feel," she says. "It makes people feel good when they can relate to music."
The music Cosentino grew up with falls into a couple different categories. During her teenage years, she preferred pop-punk bands like Green Day and Blink-182 (she admits to knowing every word to Blink's 1997 breakthrough album Dude Ranch), but her tastes were formed at a much younger age.
Her mom listened to Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan. But it was her dad who got her into the Beatles and the Beach Boys, a direct inspiration on Best Coast's sun-kissed indie pop. Cosentino is a dedicated California girl, but she didn't realize just how much she loved home until she briefly moved to New York after high school. She coped with the city's often-gloomy weather by listening to plenty of sunny and warm music.
"I kinda have the Peter Pan complex," she says. "I'm like I don't really ever wanna grow up. I don't ever wanna be old. I wish I could just stay one age for the rest of my life. Listening to that music reminds me of simpler times, when I was a kid and when things were all about back-to-school shopping and having my mom pick me up from school. Now I'm an adult, and it gets scary sometimes."
After moving back to L.A., Cosentino and Bruno formed Best Coast (Ali Koehler recently joined the group on drums). They're a tight bunch and often joke around with each other during interviews. Bruno recently told a reporter that he was Cosentino's baby-sitter years ago. He wasn't.
That same attitude runs through "When I'm With You"'s video, in which Cosentino and her boyfriend, who looks just like Ronald McDonald, ride around on a tandem bicycle, eat hamburgers (not from McDonald's!), and frolic on the beach.
"We're not very serious people," she says. "That [video] portrayed our personalities. [It also] just made people say, 'What the fuck is that?'"
Send feedback to [email protected].