12 Songs, 41 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Essence of California, distilled, clarified, and boiled down to 40 minutes of pure pop pleasure: The Coast Is Never Clear is an unjustly ignored masterpiece of musical mad science. Singer Miles Kurosky writes gorgeously textured orchestral pop that builds on a base of Pavement-style guitar rock, borrows from the Beach Boys, Burt Bacharach, and Herb Alpert, then — what the hell — throws in hints of lounge, bossa nova, punk, and country, setting the whole over bitterly ironic lyrics delivered with a cynic’s detachment. It’s a heady mixture, equal parts sun and smog. “Gene Autry” juxtaposes fuzzed-out guitars, cheerfully tinkling piano, strings, and mariachi-style horns with a chiming bell that announces the world’s chipperest downer of a chorus: “When the city spreads out, just like a cut vein/ Everybody drowns, sad and lonely.” The countrified lope of “Popular Mechanics for Lovers” morphs into 60s bubblegum at the chorus and smirkily references Stephin Merritt in a verse before lapsing into apparent sincerity as the production drops down to just piano and reverb-y voice. Just about every song on here performs the same kind of aural gymnastics. Trumpet, flute, tambourine, handclaps, sun-kissed harmonies, and irresistible hooks: it might all be too clever by half, were it not for the immaculate production—and the occasional lyric that reaches out, grabs you by the shoulders, and gives a little shake: “I don’t know about God/ But I believe in you.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Essence of California, distilled, clarified, and boiled down to 40 minutes of pure pop pleasure: The Coast Is Never Clear is an unjustly ignored masterpiece of musical mad science. Singer Miles Kurosky writes gorgeously textured orchestral pop that builds on a base of Pavement-style guitar rock, borrows from the Beach Boys, Burt Bacharach, and Herb Alpert, then — what the hell — throws in hints of lounge, bossa nova, punk, and country, setting the whole over bitterly ironic lyrics delivered with a cynic’s detachment. It’s a heady mixture, equal parts sun and smog. “Gene Autry” juxtaposes fuzzed-out guitars, cheerfully tinkling piano, strings, and mariachi-style horns with a chiming bell that announces the world’s chipperest downer of a chorus: “When the city spreads out, just like a cut vein/ Everybody drowns, sad and lonely.” The countrified lope of “Popular Mechanics for Lovers” morphs into 60s bubblegum at the chorus and smirkily references Stephin Merritt in a verse before lapsing into apparent sincerity as the production drops down to just piano and reverb-y voice. Just about every song on here performs the same kind of aural gymnastics. Trumpet, flute, tambourine, handclaps, sun-kissed harmonies, and irresistible hooks: it might all be too clever by half, were it not for the immaculate production—and the occasional lyric that reaches out, grabs you by the shoulders, and gives a little shake: “I don’t know about God/ But I believe in you.”

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