For years, it seemed that Best Coast—made up of Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno—only wrote songs about roughly three subjects: heartbreak, California and getting wasted. Despite moving from a ’60s inspired sound on their landmark debut Crazy for You to a more ’90s sensibility on 2015’s California Nights, the same discontent was always at the heart of Cosentino’s songwriting. Best Coast’s star rose just as Internet trolls started to peek out from under their bridges, so drinking became a way for her to deal with fame. “I was writing the same song over and over again: I’m miserable!” she explained.
Following the album cycle for California Nights, Cosentino felt “creatively paralyzed,” eventually forcing herself to write the song “Everything Has Changed” and, on November 12, 2017, deciding to get sober. Always Tomorrow is Best Coast’s first album since then, setting out a tentative roadmap for the band now that they’ve entered uncharted territory.
Throughout the flagship tune “Everything Has Changed,” Cosentino tackles the stereotypical image of the tortured artist—a considerable obstacle for musicians overcoming addiction, since society usually sees personal suffering as necessary for visionary art. “I used to be so scared / If everything’s okay then what the hell / Do I complain about?” she sings, echoing lyrics from “When Will I Change” on California Nights (“It’s not that bad / And I have no reason to be sad / But I find a way / Almost every day to stay this way”). Now, though, she has made the change and confesses, “I like it this way,” describing the little things—walking her dog, a cup of coffee—that make her grateful for sobriety. The song is a full circle moment for her as well as a beacon of hope for others struggling with addiction.
Her personal transformation also manifests itself in sonic experimentation on Always Tomorrow. At its best, this results in tracks like “For the First Time,” which keeps Best Coast staples like multi-tracked vocals and summery guitar, while integrating synth and occasionally evoking The Corrs in its poppy brightness. “Rollercoaster” likewise showcases a new side of Best Coast, bringing in shimmery chimes and zinging guitar solos for a psych-rock vibe. You can practically see the pastel-colored streamers strung overhead on “True,” which sounds like it should be playing at a high school prom in the ’50s or ’60s as teenagers awkwardly slow dance. It’s one of the album’s rare romantic detours, one that Cosentino unabashedly embraces as she finally feels “the things I’ve read about in magazines.”
Not all of these explorations quite work, though they show a promising future for Best Coast. The first few notes of synth on “Seeing Red” may make you think you accidentally put on Stephen Malkmus’ recent foray into electronica on Groove Denied, but the hooky addition never really seems to go anywhere. Leaning fully into these decisions may not have always been fruitful, but they’re certainly more exciting than trying them out in half-measures.
For most of the album, Cosentino relies heavily on her pop-punk roots, manifesting in choruses that are easy to sing along to, but just as quickly forgotten. The arena rock influence established on California Nights lingers on, with the worst offenders being “Make It Last” and “Used to Be.” Those two tracks chug along with little to offer, while others (“Wreckage,” “Different Light”) are exuberant enough that they invite multiple listens.
Ahead of the record’s release, Cosentino noted she’s “less afraid of failing than ever before,” and that sentiment is palpable in the aural risks she takes. Sobriety requires courage, and hopefully, that bravery paves the way for the more sonically diverse Best Coast that we get a glimpse of on Always Tomorrow.
Revisit Best Coast’s 2011 Daytrotter session: