Music has this strange, yet beautiful ability to take you back to any point in your life. Music has saved my life countless times; it has and will always be there in a way that others simply cannot be. It may not have saved me in the most literal sense of the phrase, but it has helped pull me out of multiple rough mental and emotional lows. Being asked to write about my individual human experience was quite intimidating and even made me question exactly how vulnerable I wanted to be. How did music save my life? How much of my past internal struggles am I willing to share? Writing this piece forced me to do deep, introspective reflecting on some of the hardest moments in my life and in a way, I had to relive them again. After looking back at my short yet eventful life, I realized that I struggled most in college. Like so many others going to college, I was trying to find myself, dealing with stress, trying to keep balance in my life, and manage so many other emotions. Grades were not an issue, it was everything else in my life that felt like it was going wrong. When I look back at those four years, the last two were the hardest. The one thing about those difficult times that sticks out is the music that drowned out the outside world, the music that let me indulge in all my angsty, confused emotions but also helped me work through them and grow. Best Coast saved my life at that time and helped me realize that things would in fact be ok.
My junior year of college was mentally frustrating and exhausting. I was attending a school in the Midwest which was due to the fact my mother had moved us to the area when I was in high school. The school was very underwhelming and I couldn’t stand it at all. At the time, I didn’t have the resources to move back home on my own so in my mind, I felt trapped. Being from Los Angeles, small town life drove me nearly insane. The atmosphere and people were not at my speed, I didn’t connect with anyone, there was absolutely nothing to do and I missed my friends. On top of that, home life wasn’t ideal. My mother was going through a separation from her then-husband and the house was anything but peaceful. The only thing keeping me sane was my then-boyfriend (now husband) who was one of my very few friends and my absolute best friend at that. We had met in high school and had been together for six years at the time but suddenly, things weren’t working and we broke up. At that point, it felt like there was absolutely nothing for me there and I was so confused. I hated where I was physically, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college and I lost my boyfriend and felt so far away from everyone. I felt I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to and all I wanted to do was run back to California and start over. In response to my world caving in, I isolated myself. I went to school and kept my head down, came home, locked myself in my room and created art. In all my alone time, I turned to music. I had loved Best Coast from the beginning but never truly connected to the meaning of the music until I was going through this difficult time. I was almost 21, I was still basically a kid and just wanted to get the hell out of dodge.
Best Coast, If you aren’t already familiar, is a Surf-rock, Los Angeles based band formed in 2009 by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Bethany Cosentino, and guitarist Bobb Bruno. What initially drew me to the duo was their beachy-grunge sound which reminded me of beautiful California and the multiple songs about growing up and dealing with all the crazy obstacles of finding yourself. Their debut album, Crazy For You and second album The Only Place, was exactly what I needed while working through the mental turmoil that came with my final college years. The albums were very emotionally heavy and I felt like the songs were a reflection of what I was going through; a difficult breakup, utter confusion and trying to figure out what the hell I was doing with my life. Cosentino has been very open about her own struggles with finding herself, devastating separations, substance issues and the importance of taking care of your mental health. As someone who felt like all of it applied to my own life, there was a specific song for each of my issues that seemed like they were written just for me (a feeling I’m sure lots of fans have in common).
The band’s first two albums tell the story of love, heartbreak and navigating adolescence. There is obvious longing and struggle in the music and Cosentino’s unique vocals and lyrics effortlessly break through to teens and young adults feeling lost. These two albums in particular helped me with the breakup aspect of my troubles. Songs like “Boyfriend,” “Last Year,” and “Bratty B,” really put words to what I was feeling. I missed someone and I wanted to see them but couldn’t. On top of that, there are a few songs that are beautiful love letters to the West Coast and sunny California that helped take my mind off the fact I wasn’t happy in my surroundings. Best Coast would transport me back home for just a few moments with the songs “The Only Place,” “Let’s Go Home,” and “California Nights.” Their early music had a very dreamy bedroom grunge sound that made it ideal for deep pondering. For a good semester, I let myself slowly sink into the albums and feel the hell out of my pain which was good, but I couldn’t stay there forever.
It was after a good four months of feeling totally lost and distressed that I had to figure out how I would spend the summer. It was the end of the semester, I had no one to spend it with and I needed a mental reset. I reluctantly reached out to my father who is a professional musician. He happened to be going on tour to Europe for the summer and after expressing my young adult woes, he offered me a summer job as a roadie for his band. I was over the moon and couldn’t wait to get out of the country. It just so happened that the same month, Best Coast was releasing a new album titled California Nights. A complete 180 from their previous albums, California Nights signaled a new beginning and outlook on life. With my headphones in one hand and passport in the other, I packed my bags, headed to the airport and left behind all my troubles, just for the summer.
time in Europe was exactly what I needed to put the past behind me and start a new chapter. The whole trip I listened to the new Best Coast album and it felt like they were there with me, encouraging and pushing me to choose happiness and enjoy the good things life was giving me in this moment. The songs I loved in particular were “Feeling Ok,” “Fine Without You,” and “Heaven Sent.” The album was an awakening, a revolution of mind. It’s as if the band had just known that at the same time, my life was turning around. As Best Coast’s music guided me through the summer, I felt alive again. I was traveling abroad, I was working in the music industry alongside my dad, and I was content just being alone with me. I did keep up with the band on their social media and it was so bizarre to me that their moods and music seemed to line up with what I was feeling and when I was feeling it. Lyrics like “I know it’s hard to understand, but you’ve got to let it go, the situation’s out of your hands,” put things into perspective. I spent the summer working hard and listening to the album on repeat and with each passing day, I felt like no matter what was next, I was ready.
Summer soon came to a close and inevitably, I had to go back to the land of problems to finish school and get ready for the real world. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me. Best Coast had given me albums to help me feel my confused emotions but they also helped shape a positive mentality to move forward with. They completely changed my state of mind and gave me the motivation to get things done and move on. I took the lessons and things I had learned about myself over the summer back with me. The band’s words echoed in my ears as I finished up my last year of college. The words pushed me to make my life what I wanted it to be.
Fast forward to a year later, Best Coast was still with me when I finished college. I made it through and was now ready to leave the Midwest behind. By that time, I reconnected with my old boyfriend and we decided life made more sense when we were together. We packed our bags and headed back home to the West Coast, best coast. Their music has seen me through some of the best and worst times in my life. To this day, they remain one of my absolute favorite bands not only because of their music, but because of the lasting impact they made on my life. They have shown me that sometimes things get messy and your path in life won’t always be so clear, but ultimately, I will always be ready for what it brings. This was a hard time in my life and there may be more to come but no matter what I do and where I go, I know things are going to be ok.