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Judy G.

CD of The Week

Week of 7/31/23

    Bethany Cosentino - Natural Disaster (Concord)

    When we last heard from Best Coast¸ the California duo had just released Always Tomorrow at the start of 2020. Unfortunately, like so many other bands, their touring plans were canceled by COVID… then every time they tried to reschedule, the pandemic shut them down again. Singer Bethany Cosentino took this time to take a leap she had been considering for some time: putting Best Coast on hiatus to go it alone as a solo artist and explore themes and sounds she felt she couldn’t or wasn’t expected to, within her long-running band.

    Cosentino secretly recorded Natural Disaster along with veteran producer and musician Butch Walker, a master of songcraft and pop production. Her goal was to pay homage to the female artists of the ‘90s she grew up on in the Lilith Fair era of Sheryl Crow and The (Dixie) Chicks, crossed with her life-long love of sunny California guitar pop and Jenny Lewis worship. The result is an album that sounds immediately familiar in more ways than one.

    Natural Disaster kicks off with the title track, where Bethany ruminates on our ever-warming planet and her own self-improvement in one hooky pop-rock song. Lead single “It’s Fine” finds her coming to terms with going solo, getting past her hang-ups and moving forward in life, all set to a big, bright, windows-down tune with a sing-along chorus.

    She’s at her most vulnerable on the straight-up piano love ballad “Easy,” working with timeless power ballad melodies and structures while acknowledging “I hate to sound cliché and cheesy” as she sings about growing up, falling in love and contemplating motherhood.

    “My Own City” is jangling guitar goodness and the shimmering, twangy “Calling All Angels” was made to listen to while driving on a summertime day, even though Bethany has climate change and political divides on her mind. Banjos and chugging guitars mix together in “Outta Time,” featuring a Bonnie Raitt shout-out and Cosentino really showcasing her big voice. In fact, Natural Disaster truly allows Cosentino to show off her voice, as she gets to belt it out in a way she hasn't before. And the carpe diem love song “For a Moment” was made to soundtrack a teen romance film.

    As a homage to the artists who inspired her, Natural Disaster certainly accomplishes Cosentino’s mission. But it’s more than just a pastiche she’s going for here. You’ve heard these chords a million times before and it’s fine to hear them again, used by an artist yearning to express something different, perhaps for the first time.

    Review by Joey O.

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