TIME Music

Review: Best Coast Go Full Power Pop on California Nights

best coast
Harvest Records

All the fuzz and distance of Best Coast’s previous records has been Lemon Pledged into guitar sparkle

Nothing harshes California’s mellow like California itself. As power-pop lifers Kay Hanley and Linus of Hollywood, who named their band Palmdale for it, once said: “Palmdale sounds like a happy, beautiful place, but it’s actually a bleak, concrete-encased desert town with a very high meth lab-to-people ratio.” It just takes an hour too long at the beach for sun-soaked to turn into sun-sick, after all, and parallel to the carefree music codified by the Beach Boys and pornified by Katy Perry runs a tradition that’s equally indebted to the West Coast, and equally irresistible: the fun-and-sun pop song about dead-end suburbia, sulk-around boredom and bad decisions in sunny weather. California girls, they’re inconsolable—and none more so than the girls who inhabit any given Best Coast song.

Anyone who knows Best Coast probably also knows the Best Coast memes: the cannabis-fueled sulking, the Cathy-approaching levels of pining over boys, the cat Bethany Cosentino wishes could talk, the state of California getting a literal bear hug, the fact that all their songs famously sound the same. As one writer said of the band and its contemporaries, they’re “obsessed with the various qualities of sand, sunshine, friendship, and/or the waves, and they’re too high to take a position on much else.” As a band concept, it’s snappy as a sales pitch, inviting as a June beach and responsible for a lot of fans falling fast in summer love. Still, it’s the sort of thing that, when sustained over more than one album, easily leads to a backlash. As backlashes do, the sniping about Best Coast’s music soon turned into a referendum on their personality, and specifically the personality of Cosentino herself. Her looks, her persona, her relationships (notably with fellow indie kid Wavves) became fodder for sneering-at-best bloggers. These days, even people who like Best Coast tend to liken Cosentino, who is 28, to a “needy, narcissistic teen.”

It shouldn’t have to happen this way. When Best Coast debuted with Crazy For You they were quickly lumped in with what was at the time a surfeit of lo-fi, all-women or at least female-fronted garage bands. This was always an awkward fit, less a scene than a trendpiece, and most of these acts soon abandoned the fuzzy girl-group sound for other lands, like ‘80s mall goth, or breakups. Meanwhile, Best Coast have quietly found themselves in the zeitgeist. Haim, by channeling California cool, have earned a besotten following of music heads and, increasingly, celebrities. Weed, quarter-life crises and power-pop gloss make up Colleen Green’s excellent and much-feted I Want to Grow Up, to name one of a bouquet of flower-powered California acts. The sad-girl act has been lately embraced as an Internet aesthetic (take the 200K follower-strong tweeter @sosadtoday, from—where else?—L.A.). That other California drear-er of note now tops the mainstream charts. Improbably, Best Coast have become underrated.

Luckily, the band’s well-positioned to drop that “under.” California Nights—sharing a name with a track by the late Lesley Gore—is the band’s major-label debut, on Capitol’s Harvest Records, and it sounds it. If The Only Place was Best Coast’s big pop move, then by comparison California Nights is the size of the Hollywood sign. All the fuzz and distance of Best Coast’s previous records has been Lemon Pledged into guitar sparkle; the result’s almost unrecognizable as the product of two people who used to be in a drone-folk band. A lot of the credit here goes to producer Wally Gagel, who produced Best Coast’s last EP Fade Away as well as the power-pop likes of Superchunk, Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly’s post-Belly debut, the underrated Lovesongs for Underdogs. Unlike Jon Brion, who helmed The Only Place, Gagel’s not afraid to go for the hook, and where The Only Place didn’t sound polished so much as sprayed stiff, California Nights sparkles like pavement and sounds great: one shining hook, directed right at your heart.

We’re in the realm of power-pop, in other words, where the band’s always belonged. “When Will I Change” tweaks the riff from Blondie’s “Dreaming”; “Fine Without You” is a dead Letters to Cleo ringer; “Heaven Sent” sounds, gloriously, like half the radio did in 1995. Bobb Bruno races through fast tracks, while Bethany Cosentino pulls syllables like bubblegum, deploys words like punctuation—which is key. The average Best Coast lyric (representative: “why don’t you like me / what’s with the jealousy / sha la la, sha la la…”) can be rewritten with no more than three emoji, and you’d probably end up re-using the same three. But you could say the same of the best power-pop acts—think Shonen Knife, or the Ramones even—and there’s a method to Cosentino’s single-mindedness. The themes are largely unchanged: bad boyfriends, friend breakups, more weed—concentrated on the title track, a psychedelic reverb trip without a scrap of irony—and the push-pull inertia of wanting to grow up and not really wanting to move. By track two Cosentino’s bouncy and hooky, telling herself to stop wasting time and sounding convinced; by track 12 (“Wasted Time”) she doesn’t sound convinced of much of anything but the soporific drift, as easy to get lost in as one slept-away afternoon, then five more.

It’s tempting to call this maturity, but neither the sounds nor the shrugs are anything Best Coast hasn’t dwelled upon since Crazy For You. Go back and re-listen and it’s all there, like re-runs of the same show on the same TV, watched in the same apartments during the same long summers. That’s the point, and it always was. Being 28 and having meandered for years through variations on the same love and life limbo is, to put it lightly, not an unfamiliar scenario for most of Best Coast’s listeners, old or new. California, as it does in so much fiction, becomes a stand-in for the whole country; the California blues turn out to be not that different than any given listener’s own personal inertia. But the trick of this music—a trick Best Coast are very near perfecting—is that it sounds like so much fun.

TIME movies

Watch Jar Jar Binks Ruin the New Star Wars Trailer

Happy Star Wars Day!

To celebrate May the 4th, a.k.a. Star Wars Day, take a moment to revel in the fact that Jar Jar Binks does not have a role in The Force Awakens.

YouTuber Murdock Motion used video-editing software to add one of the most hated characters in cinematic history into the trailer of the highly anticipated new Star Wars film. It’s a great reminder to fans of the true horror that could have been. (Now if someone could just come up with a way of editing Jar Jar out of The Phantom Menace.)

Fans don’t need to worry about Jar Jar actually appearing in The Force Awakens, though, as director J.J. Abrams seems to hate him as much as most fans. He told Vanity Fair he considered killing off the character as soon as he took the helm of the franchise: “I have a thought about putting Jar Jar Binks’s bones in the desert there. I’m serious! Only three people will notice, but they’ll love it.”

TIME movies

5 Things to Know About Star Wars If You’ve Never Seen It Before

Terry O'Neill—Getty Images American actors Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher in costume as brother and sister Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy, 1977.

May the fourth be with you!

If you’ve never seen Star Wars before—not even a clip, not even a few minutes—you can probably still understand why Monday is Star Wars Day. It is May 4, after all, and like other date-related memes (see: “It’s Gonna Be May,” “It’s October Third“), Internet nerds can’t help but share “May the Fourth Be With You” all over social media.

So even if you’ve never actually heard Harrison Ford as Han Solo utter the words “May the force be with you,” take it from someone who only recently watched the franchise for the first time: it’s pretty easy to get familiar. Here are a few quick facts to catch you up on the iconic franchise for Star Wars Day:

1. The Empire is bad. The Jedi Knights are good. You may have been confused by “The Empire Strikes Back,” since bad guys aren’t usually in the title.

2. Ultimate bad-guy Darth Vader is ultimate good-guy Luke Skywalker’s father. Because all sci-fi franchises are about the struggle between good and evil.

3. Princess Leia is Luke’s sister, and therefore Vader’s daughter, too. So it’s a good thing those two crazy kids never get together romantically.

4. There are lots of animal villains on the planets they visit, but none of them are very scary looking. Except Jabba the Hutt. He is terrifying.

5. The Empire is defeated, but the struggle continues. The next installment, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens will see the old gang picking up the light sabers once again.

And now you’re ready to see Episode VII. Catch it in theaters Dec. 18, 2015.

TIME Music

Let Miguel and Wale Wake You Up With Some Fresh ‘Coffee’

The pair's morning pick-me-up revamps a song from last December

As you probably gathered from its profane parenthetical, Miguel’s song “Coffee (F-cking)” has very little to do with caffeine, but it might help you get through this Monday nonetheless. The “Adorn” singer, who has written for Beyoncé, Jessie Ware and Usher, blows out this dreamy ode to morning sex and pillow talk—to date Miguel, you must be down with early a.m. rounds of Would You Rather?—with the same fuzzy guitars and hazy atmospherics that made his Girls soundtrack contribution one of the best songs of last 2014. The Wale-assisted release is an updated version of a song Miguel put out on an EP in December, but even old Miguel is welcome Miguel if it means Wild Heart, the follow-up to 2012’s Kaleidoscope Dream, is coming soon.

TIME movies

Why Movie Theaters Are Mad at Disney Over Avengers

Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Marvel/Disney Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans star in Avengers: Age of Ultron

Disney is reportedly keeping ticket prices high

As Disney continues to rack up box office hit after box office hit, its movie studio is gaining increasing leverage to dictate how theaters show its films. Now theaters are voicing their concerns over policies they say could lead to higher prices for moviegoers.

The National Association of Theatre Owners issued a letter to Walt Disney Studios decrying an “avalanche of complaints” it had received from theatre owners over strict conditions placed on screenings of Avengers: Age of Ultron, according to the Wall Street Journal. Among the requirements: theaters had to stop matinee screenings of the blockbuster film by 5 p.m., as well as charge at least the national average price for a movie ticket in order to keep a cut of the film’s box office revenue.

The last point in particular is contentious because smaller markets regularly show movies at prices cheaper than the national average.

Disney can make these kinds of demands because its movies are simply too lucrative for exhibitors to pass up. The Avengers is the third highest-grossing movie of all-time globally, while its sequel, Age of Ultron, just had the second biggest opening weekend ever in the United States.

Beyond Marvel Studios, Disney also has a new Pixar movie coming out this year, while the relaunch of the Star Wars franchise kicks off in December.

Still, Disney depends on theaters to distribute its films to the masses, so it wants to maintain an amicable relationship. The company has recanted on its matinee cutoff and is willing to draw up different pricing schemes for areas where ticket prices are typically below the national average, according to the Journal.

Disney and the National Association of Theatre Owners did not respond to requests for comment.

TIME Television

Mad Men Recap: ‘Lost Horizon’

Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson
Justina Mintz—AMC Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson in "Lost Horizon."

Don, Joan and Peggy struggle to adjust to their new jobs at McCann-Erickson

Up until this week’s episode of Mad Men, I assumed the man falling between skyscrapers in opening credits was strictly a metaphor. A few events in “Lost Horizon,” however, made me wonder if Don’s demise was on the immediate horizon—and whether it would involve heights. The “previously on” recap at the start of the episode included Roger’s remark about how Don will probably die in the middle of a pitch one day, and Don himself spent a lot of time staring out the windows of his new office, perhaps realizing that a flimsy piece of glass is all that’s keeping him from plummeting to his death. (Or escaping from his life, if the plane flying in the distance has reignited your interest in the D.B. Cooper theory of Mad Men.)

Don didn’t end up jumping, but he did go a little off the rails as one of many characters having a hard time adjusting to McCann-Erickson’s absorption of SC&P. It’s not just the overwhelming size and corporate culture of his new job that’s messing with his head, though—it’s his continuing obsession with the enigmatic waitress Diana. After a skipping a few important client meetings and going AWOL, much to the concern of new boss Jim Hobart—who referred to Don as his “white whale” after trying to hire him for a decade—Don starts having sleep-deprived hallucinations of the late Bert Cooper while driving to Diana’s old home in Racine, Wisconsin. That’s not even the weirdest part of an episode that features Peggy drunkenly roller skating around the old SC&P office (more on that later), but it becomes perhaps the most disturbing once Don assumes a fake name and pretends to be delivering sweepstakes prizes in an attempt to learn Diana’s whereabouts.

The new wife of Diana’s ex-husband welcomes Don inside their suburban home while Diana’s surviving daughter lurks on the staircase like something out of a horror movie. The visit turns hostile, though, once the husband returns home from work and sees through Don’s pretense. He doesn’t buy Don’s story about delivering contest prizes, nor does he buy Don’s back-up story about being a collection agent when his first cover is blown. Apparently, Don’s not the first man to be so consumed with Diana that he came to Racine to track her down. “You can’t save her,” the guy tells Don, “only Jesus can.” Now, Diana has more or less already said the same thing to Don, but maybe he’s treating her like a project to save himself from feeling so obsolete in his life: Joan and others don’t need him to save the day anymore, Betty’s finding her passion, his kids are fine on their own. Maybe Don will take the message to heart and finally take no for an answer now that he’s hearing it from someone who isn’t Diana. We’ll find out next week when he returns from his impromptu road trip, assuming the hitchhiker he picked up in the final scene doesn’t turn out to be a murderer or something.

Don can take his time coming back, though, because this episode’s MVP was, without a doubt, Joan. Remember when Joan talked about wanting to burn the whole place down after some McCann-Erickson bros spent a meeting making comments about her body? It’s almost a surprise this episode didn’t end with Joan walking down the streets of New York with the building going up in flames behind her, given what she had to put up with at McCann. After Dennis, one of the jerks from that meeting, derails a client phone call by showing up unprepared, Joan goes to Ferg Donnelly and asks if someone else can handle the business instead. Ferg decides to take matters into his own hands, which at first seems like a blessing—he gets Dennis out of the picture and keeps Joan in charge of her accounts—until he lets her know repeatedly that the only business he wants to do with Joan is that kind of business.

So Joan seeks help again, this time from Jim Hobart, who isn’t so sympathetic to her requests for autonomy. Hobart tells her he doesn’t care about her former partner status at SC&P and that she can take half the money on her contract and get lost, lest she wants to get a lawyer involved. But Joan threatens to do just that, name-dropping the ACLU and reminding Hobart that she’s probably not the only woman in McCann who’s been made to feel uncomfortable by Ferg. (Note to men: if you have to defend your company to a woman threatening sexual harassment litigation with the words “Women love it here,” there’s a good chance they don’t.) Joan seemed ready to fight, but Roger convinces her to take the money—not because she’s wrong, but because he nor anyone else would be able to help her: Hobart’s threats about the consequences and ostracization she would face are no joke. Joan doesn’t need to work, but with two episodes left in the whole series, it’s disheartening, if not infuriating, to see someone as competent and ambitious as Joan lose the battle against workplace sexism.

Unless, of course, she and Peggy run off to form their own agency, which a lot of people on Twitter are crossing their fingers for. We don’t yet know how Peggy will handle the culture at McCann-Erickson, as the company thought she was a secretary and didn’t have her office ready, but if Joan’s experience is any indication, Peggy’s relationship with the company might go up in flames, too. While waiting for her new office, Peggy tries to work from the abandoned offices of SC&P in scenes that feel a bit like Elisabeth Moss went and followed January Jones to the set of Last Man on Earth. First she spills coffee all over the floor and leaves it there (between this and the red wine in Don’s old apartment, Mad Men is really into upturned beverages as a sign of decay), then she wonders if she’s hearing ghosts before finding Roger eerily playing the organ by the stairwell.

They end up spending the rest of the day drinking together, which leads to Peggy putting on the roller skates and Roger giving her both some career advice (“This business doesn’t have feelings”) as well as Bert Cooper’s old octopus painting, which she initially resists. “You know I need to make men feel at ease,” she says. “Who told you that?” he fires back. On one hand, that’s an empty retort for Roger to make considering he later tells Joan that, actually, making men uneasy isn’t worth it and she should take the money. But on the other hand, the GIF-able moment it inspired—Peggy slow-mo walking through the halls of McCann, sunglasses on, cigarette lit, octopus painting under her arm—could be their redemption. If Joan’s not going to burn this place down, maybe Peggy will.

Read next: Here’s What Mad Men Creator Matthew Weiner Loves About Serial

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

Correction: The original version of this story misidentified the athletic footwear Peggy wore in the office. They were roller skates.

TIME fashion

See Photos From the Met Gala in 1960

In 1960, the Metropolitan Costume Institute held its ball in the Museum's Great Hall for the first time—and elegance ruled the evening

On Monday evening, Hollywood’s brightest stars will don their most dramatic, their strangest and their most avant-garde looks for the Met Gala, the annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Getups in recent years have drawn inspiration from flappers and figure skaters, brides and birds. But in 1960, when the ball was held in the museum’s Great Hall for the first time, guests did not appear to be competing for any weirdest-dressed lists. Pearls, fur and big skirts ruled the evening as guests danced, LIFE wrote, “beneath the gaze of an Egyptian sphinx … and under medieval gonfalons.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME Music

Review: Ciara Stays in Her Lane on Jackie—And That’s A Good Thing

Jackie by Ciara
Epic Records Jackie by Ciara.

The singer plays to her strengths on her sixth album, out now

If pop stardom is a high school—Beyoncé the straight-A valedictorian, Katy Perry the cheerleader, Lady Gaga the theater geek—then Ciara is the track star. It’s not just because of her athleticism, though her superhuman thighs and gravity-defying back-bends make for must-see videos and should probably be studied by scientists. And it’s not just because Ciara seems to play in a whole other league from the aforementioned artists, kept in the same breath as those women thanks more to the fervor of her fans—her die-hards’ devotion earned a New York Times mention—than record sales. (Though that may not be entirely her fault.)

No, it’s because, over the course of her 12-year-career, Ciara has developed a very specific set of skills, limited in breadth but impressive in their singularity. Like the best Olympic runners, watching her do her thing never gets old, even when you realize she’s technically running around in circles. If you made a drinking game around every time Ciara has asked you to “turn it up” in her career (“it” being the volume, the energy, your sex life), your night would go south very quickly, but to be mad about that would be to misunderstand the whole point of Ciara. Once billed as the first lady of Crunk&B, she’s become one of the most reliable suppliers of frothy, light-on-its-feet party music, mixing the freshest parts of R&B and hip-hop with the drum-machine beats of decades past. Yet though we typically demand two club-banger singles from our divas before a ballad ever hits radio, Ciara also routinely launches album campaigns on the strength of her breathy slow jams. Favoring friskiness over filthiness, they make the club feel like the bedroom and the bedroom feel like the club. She’s basically the closest thing millennials have to their own Janet Jackson.

Ciara’s sixth album, Jackie, named in tribute to her mother after Ciara welcomed a son with ex-fiancé Future last May, continues to hone those skills and then some. The singer’s best album will probably be the greatest hits album she has yet to release, but at least Jackie rivals 2013’s self-titled quasi-comeback as Ciara’s most consistent and self-assured record to date. That record opened with “I’m Out,” a single-ladies anthem that captured the messiness of break-ups in the Instagram age and contained one of Nicki Minaj’s finest guest verses. The new record, too, bursts out of its starting blocks with “Jackie (B.M.F.),” which aspires to expand our hashtag vernacular (picture #bmf — bad motherf-cker — alongside #flawless and #feelingmyself) while also featuring her most adventurous production since linking up with Danja (Britney Spears’ Blackout) on 2009’s Fantasy Ride. Wisely, Ciara keeps the alterations to her training regimen to a minimum.

In fact, nearly every song on the record feels like a companion to at least one other proven track in her back catalog. If slinky, synth-driven Ciara is your preferred event, “That’s How I’m Feelin’,” redeems its Pitbull contribution with a rare (if unremarkable) anchor leg from Missy Elliott. If her EDM workouts make you sweat, “Give Me Love” keeps up the pace of Ciara highlight “Overdose.” And if you’re making room on your calendar for upcoming body parties, save the date for second single “Dance Like We’re Making Love,” a minimal Doctor Luke production that sensually draws out its lo-o-uh-uh-o-ove hook without sounding too pornographic.

Despite the dramatic changes in her personal life—motherhood, a high-profile split with Future that inspired the bittersweet (and controversial) lead single “I Bet”—the album’s most significant evolutions aren’t so obvious. For an artist who dodged using profanity for years, the sheer quantity of F-bombs she drops in the the title track signals more confidence and attitude than ever. That Ciara includes a song called “One Woman Army,” presumably the years-old title track to the scrapped project of that name, shows some artistic conviction, even if its robo-military march is too busy for its own good. Her stabs at more straight-forward pop—”Only One” and the Diane Warren-penned “I Got You”—are fairly conventional. But when a common Ciara criticism holds that tracks can swallow her voice’s personality whole, the fact that she sounds like she could break down and cry while singing about doing so? Now that feels like a step forward.

Staying in your lane doesn’t have to be a bad thing, as Jackie proves. Watching Ciara compete with herself is the more entertaining race to watch.

TIME movies

See the New Star Wars Cast on the Cover of Vanity Fair

228 more days until the new movie comes out

The new Star Wars cast got the Annie Leibovitz treatment on the cover of Vanity Fair.

The famous photographer shot the cast for the Vanity Fair issue hitting newsstands May 12.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is hitting theaters on Dec. 18.

As you pore over these new images of the cast, remember, Monday is May 4, Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you.

Read next: 8 Lessons Star Wars Taught Us About Money, for May the Fourth

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Music

Listen to Britney Spears’ and Iggy Azalea’s New Single

Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea’s new collaboration “Pretty Girls” was officially released Monday morning, though the track was leaked a couple of days earlier.

Azalea took to Twitter over the weekend to urge fans to wait until the single was on iTunes to listen to it:

But now that the song is officially out, Azalea is letting everyone know how excited she is about the duo’s work on the track:

The pair will make their debut performance of the song at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards.

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