Archive for August 6th, 2010

Best Coast is Bethany Cosentino’s celebration of all things Californian. This LA girl writes “songs about summer and the sun and the ocean and being a lazy creep.” Her debut album Crazy For You is out now and reviewed below. You can hear some of the tracks here:

Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno


We’ve all been there – infatuated with the person of our dreams, who is most likely totally unsuitable, wouldn’t notice us if we were the only gal in the room holding a sign saying ‘I LOVE YOU DAMMIT’, and, anyway, probably has a girlfriend of their own already. Unrequited love for boys or girls to whom we are invisible is all part of the crushing inevitability of life, but never more so than when you’re a gawky teenager. Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast understands all of this – she’s a woman who’s been there, smoked that, and bought the band t-shirt, and she’s not afraid to sing about it. Crazy for You is like a trip down memory lane, a gauzy, dreamy quantum leap back to the days of awkward fumblings and bad kisses; hanging out on ‘the green’ at dusk, wrapped in a borrowed hoodie; sneaking drags off forbidden cigarettes (or not) and desperately wishing you were somewhere better, cooler.

The members of Best Coast may have grown up LA, and the shimmering surf and seaside groove of the coast may inform their sun-soaked melliflous vibe, but their songs will be understood by anyone who’s become darkly obsessive about their partner (‘Honey’), fallen in one-way love (‘Boyfriend’) or discovered they can’t live with or without their lover (‘Crazy For You’). Delicious harmonies stolen from one of Spector’s girl groups, guitar lines inspired by Nirvana, the swagger of the Dum Dum Girls and a hint of Liz Phair’s snarl all add up toCrazy For You being one of this year’s best debuts. Like a teenage crush, it’s sweet, simple and utterly delicious. Verdict: 4/5


Best Coast’s debut album Crazy For You is a mix of heart-swelling vocals, 60s girl-band sentiment (‘I wish he was my boyfriend’) and tremolo’d surf guitar layered up until it sounds MBV-esque. In other words, it ticks all the right boxes for me. Underneath the swooning 60s sound and the Beach Boys harmonies, is a homage to Liz Phair and what she might have sounded like if she had stopped at first base. At times the constant yearning can be a bit much, the unrequited desire a bit abject, but it’s the nostalgia of adolescent lust that is appealing in these songs and Beth Cosentino knows it herself as she sings ‘I want to go back to the first time, the first place.’ But just as you’re starting to think a song is one-dimensional – cute but not earth-shattering – Cosentino shifts it up a gear and finishes with a pretty little shimmer, a retake on the song’s melody (as witnessed at the end of songs like When I’m With You and Boyfriend). This is the perfect album to hold hands to, to first kiss to and stare at posters on your bedroom wall to. Verdict: 4/5


So 2009 was the supposed ‘Year of the Female’? Big deal. Forget Florence, Gaga, La Roux and blinkered pigeonholing based solely on someone’s sex; it’s 2010, and all Bethany Cosentino and her bandmates care about is making woozy garage-pop that swings sweeter than the sixties and rocks harder than diamonds.

Like Dum Dum Girls without the curled lips and menacing stares, Best Coast marry dreamy vocals with charmingly scuffed production values, languid west coast harmonies and lyrics that sum up tales of love that’s unrequited (stellar opener ‘Boyfriend’), darkly obsessive (the brilliantly oppressive ‘Honey’) and sweetly enriching (‘Happy’) without being embarrassingly saccharine or insultingly obvious.

True, the trio may be the sort of band that cause red alerts on hipster radars everywhere – approved by Pitchfork, played in Urban Outfitters, endorsed by those who find irony in badly photoshopped artwork (with optional feline – that’s Snacks, by the way). Sure, their influences may be a little too transparent, the album’s tone a little too static at times. ‘Crazy for You’ is not a perfect album: it’s rough-round-the-edges, fundamentally simplistic and faintly derivative. But if it’s not one of the most instantly charming debuts you hear in 2010, I’ll eat my cat. Verdict: 4/5


Ever see those movies where normal-looking girls sit on a Pacific beach at night in a cut-off sweater, smoking skinny but potent joints and somehow managing not to fall into the campfire as she sings and her friends nod along with sleepy, smiling eyes? Best Coast’s album is a bit like that, reminding you of scenes you’ve seen before and always longed to be part of. In a way, we kind of are…if Bethany Cosetino were to cast her voice in the opposite direction, her honeyed tones would not be out of place amongst our own feel-good summer soundsurfers Popical Island.

Crazy For You is girly (‘Boyfriend’), summery (‘Our Deal’), sweet (‘Happy’) and one of the rare gems that allows for flares of sadness (‘I Want To’)  without any sense of despondent wallowing. Bethany C’s vocals are remarkably clear and feature very prominently but at less than 30 minutes, it won’t take long to learn the words. Admittedly, it’s all so fast-paced that it could pass as a bit samey if you’re not paying attention but then, who else but the lovers pay attention to the fleeting beauty of a summer romance? Verdict: 4/5

Overall verdict? 16/20

Crazy For You is out now on Wichita

Read Full Post »

I remember the first time I saw a woman in Dublin wearing a burqa. It was May, 2003; the final day of my third-year college exams. I was sitting on the footpath on the South Circular Road, doing some last-minute revision. As I was skimming through my notes, I noticed what appeared to be a large mound of black material trundling in my direction. It took me a second or two to realise that the mound was, in fact, a human being. The figure’s height and outline were the only visible clues as to its gender: limbs, torso, neck and head were all covered in heavy fabric and even the woman’s face was hidden behind a dark meche. Beside her, walked two little boys in white summer outfits. I found the whole scene pretty depressing.

The next time I saw any form of veil at close quarters was a couple of years later, when I was in England studying for a Masters degree. While I was there, I lived with thirteen other women, including two Muslims, both of whom wore a hijab to cover their hair and neckline. Since it was an all-female house, both of the women frequently took off their hijab indoors but it was expected that we would warn them in advance if we were having any male visitors so they could cover up. One evening, a friend of mine arrived into the kitchen unannounced, which resulted in much consternation and at least one woman hiding behind a fridge.

Both D. (a lawyer from Malaysia, whose parents were extremely disappointed when she began to wear a veil) and Z. (a bubbly divorcée from Jordan) felt that wearing the hijab was a demonstration of their commitment to their faith but neither felt any religious requirement to cover her face or to wear a burqa. Both regarded the burqa as a cultural, rather than a religious garment, the wearing of which was not demanded by the Qu’ran.

The practical differences between the hijab and the burqa or niqab are huge and, personally, I think that the recent banning of the latter garments by the French parliament is a positive step for human rights. It’s not a question of racism, intolerance or Islamophobia – it’s about identity, which, in any State, is both a right and an obligation. In his arguments in favour of the ban, President Sarkozy stated that “the defining duty of French citizenship is to engage with ones fellow citizens, which is to say, to engage face to face in the public sphere and in the workplace, the metro, the market”. No woman whose face is covered (even if its covering hasn’t been imposed on her) can expect to play a full and active role in public life – I certainly can’t imagine a scenario in which men would be granted the dubious privilege of wandering around in public wearing a mask.

With all this in mind, I was surprised to see David Mitchell, in his Observer column, speaking out against any equivalent ban in the UK:

Governments and legislatures shouldn’t tell people what they can and can’t wear… As long as people aren’t wearing crotchless jeans outside primary schools or deely boppers with attached sparklers on petrol station forecourts, we’ve all got the right to wear exactly what the hell we like and I can barely believe that we’re having this debate.

But we are. Stupid people are thinking about an issue that doesn’t need to be thought about and a YouGov survey says 67% of us want full-face veils outlawed. Just when I thought my estimation of humanity couldn’t fall any further, I discover that two-thirds of my fellow countrymen are, or at least were for the duration of taking a survey, morons.

The reality is that people are told what they can and can’t wear all the time, sometimes by governments and legislatures. We can’t wear crotchless jeans outside primary schools, we can’t wear sunglasses when we’re having our passport photos taken and we can’t expect to engage with bureaucracy while wearing a balaclava. What’s so special about a burqa?

Aoife Kelleher

Read Full Post »