New Borns: Palma Violets, Best Coast

 Our two leading and long-standing writers Sarah and Shauna deliver to New Borns this week, both their ears diving into some good old indie punk pop.  Sarah spent the weekend listening to Palma Violets and had a good time doing it, while Shauna took a chance on Best Coast,  a band that many may well have thought would be a one album wonder.  The question is, where do they go from here. Its a quiet one this week from TWL but stayed tuned from a big week ahead.

PalmaArtist Palma Violets

Album Title Danger in the Club

Label_ Rough Trade

Genr Punk, Garage, Lo-Fi, Pop Rock

Moments Of The New York Dolls, Ramones, The Vaccines

Stand Out Hollywood (I Got It), Coming Over To My Place

sarahmottTHIS ALBUM IS FUN WITH A CAPITAL FUCK LET’S DO WHAT WE WANT TODAY. Scuzzy guitars, jangling melodies and good ol’ punk rock n roll reminiscent of the New York Dolls, this is an album that will soundtrack all the good times of your ratbaggy youth.

It’s a distinctly UK sound, rowdy cheekiness that harks back to Arctic Monkey’s early days but with that endearing sincerity that comes with London lads writing rock n roll love songs. But the sound itself is a homage to the US punk movement New York Dolls and Ramones, Samuel Thomas Fryer’s vocals especially sports that trademark almost baritone that works so well over the clash and fuzz from that era. But then with songs like The Jacket Song and Matador the band simmers it down to a Libertines-esque croon, a kind of intermission or breather between the frenzied ecstasy of the other tracks.

Influences aside – its easy to find the influences and overlook the band itself – this album has been described as a mature and clear step up for the band. As much as you can mature in a genre like garage pop rock that is so linked to youth and immaturity, it does feel a little more refined than previous releases. Best of Friends from their 180 album was the standout, and compare that to these tracks – a slight progression and refinement, especially in vocal style. Does that make it better though? I love the messiness in that song, and wailing to the point of hoarseness kind of drives home the songs point.

Regardless, its another winner from London boys. Brash and joyful, sometimes its better to just soak up the songs and enjoy their simplicity and familiarity instead of analyse the influences.

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best-coast-california-nights-artArtist Best Coast

Album Title California Nights

Labl Harvest Records

Genre_ Pop Rock, Indie Rock

Moments Of Surfer Blood, Yuck, Vivian Girls

Stand Out Heaven Sent, California Nights

shauna v2California Nights presents album number three for proudly Californian band Best Coast. Bethany Constantino and Bobb Bruno are the founding pair who write and arrange the tracks on this album, while this release sees Wally Gagel (who has worked with everyone from Superchunk to Rihanna) on production duties. This album sees a distinct progression in sound, with polished sounds primed for radio play, stadium worthy vocal overdubs and classic guitar sounds. Quite a step from their debut self titled release which introduced them as a 60’s influenced, lo-fi guitar band.

It seems to be the inevitable in todays musical landscape that signing to a major label will result in a more expensive sounding, radio friendly offering. And Best Coast are no exception – California Nights has nods towards more mainstream sounds that you would expect to hear in much larger venues. They even recently played a gig on the top of the Capitol Records building in LA, which really feels like a representation of their ambitions for this album. Top it off with some serious international touring (they are making it to Australia for the Splendour In the Grass festival with a bunch of side shows) and the usual marketing schtick, and they’re sure to gain a lot of new fans.

But how will the old fans feel about California Nights? Well that depends really, but likely to go one of two ways. The first, younger fans who have only recently discovered the band, who have a more pop orientated taste, are likely to really get into this album. There is no shortage of hooks here, (see Fading Fast and In My Eyes) gearing it more towards the college rock, radio sounds of the 90’s. On the flip side, debut album Best Coast had a true lo-fi feel, cheaper recording and production leaning it towards a doo-wop, 60’s vibe. So old fans on the other hand, may be disappointed to hear such a clean sounding album – especially after Fading Away, the EP of 2013, showed some promise of a shift back to more retro sounds. In essence, it seems the album will be a divider.

The singles, Feeling Ok and Heaven Sent, are both strong offerings that work well as singles while displaying a new sound for Best Coast. However, there seems to be a lot of filler within the album, will 12 songs feeling like a stretch. Examples such as Jealousy, which has a terribly irritating chorus line, while Fine Without You has an almost identical guitar intro to I Wanna Know off Fading Away. Have Best Coast ran out of originality? It almost seems so – but in the case of this album, lack of uniqueness is merely covered up by expensive sounding production techniques.

Lyrically, nothing has really progressed with Bethany’s angst-y, longing love songs. The same applies to the arrangements and instrumentation, apart from the addition of some extra guitar parts. They have previously toured as a three piece, but now the addition of two guitars allows Bethany to stand out without the guitar on some songs. This too, even gives the band a more of a mainstream pop band feel – girl at the front, with the boys in the band. The departure of drummer Ali Koehler in 2012 definitely changed the vibe a great deal – she now plays guitar for Jawbreaker devotees Upset (with Hole drummer Patty Schemel).

So really, California Nights is still a solid album but lacking in originality. The sad thing about becoming a more mainstream band is the side effect of becoming slightly bland – not much really sticks out here to catch your attention. So give it a spin, see what you think. Let’s see what they can offer on their live shows in July, perhaps the album may have more meaning in a live setting.

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