Starting one’s own record label is a risky business. In my mind it means one of three things;
1. You have made your ‘Pet Sounds’, but nobody will touch it with a bong attached to the end of a large stick.
2. You are a popular band with a large (ish) and loyal fanbase, kicking against the pricks a la My Bloody Valentine.
3. You are ‘big on the local scene’ but not big enough to persuade Sony to hand you a blank cheque in the hands of a harem of coke-addled hookers.
Nonetheless, Bethany Cosentino, who makes up 50% of Best Coast, along with multi-
instrumentalist wizard Bobb Bruno, has set up Jewel City and made her band’s latest EP, Fade Away, the first release on this imprint with the intention to also use the label ‘to put out some stuff by friends’. Applying Jewel City to my criteria above, I was tempted to put Fade Away into category one; they’ve worked with Jon Brion, so they’re big, but they aren’t that big, and therefore I was very wary of this release by the California duo, that is until I heard it.
Don’t get me wrong, this EP is not the best thing you will hear all year, but it is certainly a solid effort by two musicians who can count Iggy Pop, Drew Barrymore and Kendrick Lamar amongst collaborators since the release of their debut album, Crazy For You, in 2010. This release kicks off with ‘I Wanna Know’s single guitar chords which soon kick into a Nada Surf-esque rhythm and add Cosentino’s clear-as-day (can’t avoid that cliché on this one) vocals on the theme of an uncertain breakup soaked in California sun. The opener is ‘undeniably catchy and poppy’, a fact stated by Cosentino herself, who feels that a song with these qualities was missing from their Jon Brion-produced sophomore effort The Only Place.
Brion’s influence on the production of this EP is obvious when stood against Crazy For You. Whilst the aforementioned producer-extraordinaire doesn’t feature on this release, Fade Away’s dense, yet clear and rich production is almost the antithesis of Best Coast’s reverb-soaked debut; the band are no longer a lo-fi garage rock homage, but a fully-fledged indie pop band. What’s next, The Thermals make a rock opera?! This is not to say that the band have completely lost their roots, far from it in fact, as ‘Who Have I Become’ keenly illustrates in its liberal use of the reverb knob and faced-paced chord changes.
I believe that nearly every review that I have ever written disparages a release for having that song which leads to a ‘lack of momentum’ and, surprise surprise, I’m going to accuse track four, ‘Baby I’m Crying’ (come on), of being this song. The chorus is sort of catchy but in all it just sounds like leading a sad puppy through a never-ending graveyard of post-breakup tissues, and nobody wants that. Another criticism that could be levied at Fade Away is an over-reliance on those guitar lines that quickly creep up the fretboard into a crescendo of tremolo-picking.
All in all however this is a pretty decent record. Believe it or not, this reviewer does like it. It’s a great record to listen to if you want to shut your eyes and will it to be summer again (providing you skip ‘Baby I’m Crying’), Bethany Cosentino’s vocals, channeling Neko Case at her best, are a pleasure to hear and the two closing tracks are so incredibly catchy that you will be singing along after two listens. Just don’t go to see them live, my mate Dave reliably informs me that ‘they were shit at Leeds.’
Fade Away was released on October 22nd 2013 on Jewel City
You can also read this review over at One Note Forever