Sometimes it only takes one song. Certainly that was the case for Bristol five-piece Coasts, who originally formed after meeting at university in Bath in 2011. Four years later – and after honing their craft on extensive tours across the UK and Europe – the band got their mainstream breakthrough with the release of single Oceans, which has received significant airplay on BBC Radio 1.
The success of that song enabled the band to play a live session at Maida Vale for DJ Huw Stephens and appear at Radio 1’s Big Weekend. Such exposure is like gold dust for an up-and-coming band like Coasts and they have remained a constant favourite of the mainstream stations ever since. However, while one song can open the door to greater things, it is rarely enough on its own to establish a lasting career.
As such, there is a lot riding on Coasts’ self-titled debut album. It is no surprise, then, that they have played it safe throughout the record’s 37-minute runtime, something demonstrated by the decision to kick the album off with Oceans. The song remains as infectious as it did on its release – with sun-drenched guitar hook giving it a summery outlook – but it is never a good idea to start with your best track unless you can back it up.
“We fell in love, right by the ocean/ made all our plans, down on the sand,” sings frontman Chris Caines, as the song’s irresistible chorus leaves its lasting mark. Yet, Oceans sets a high benchmark that the rest of the record struggles to match on a consistent basis, with too many of the tracks sounding so polished and clean-cut that they lack any real character or distinction.
Wolves attempts to replicate the success of Oceans, with its Chvrches-like synths and big anthemic chorus, but it feels a little paint-by-numbers. It is better than the glossy sheen of You, though, which is little more than a repetitive chorus shamelessly aimed at the summer festival crowd: “You make me feel/ like I’m holding on to something real,” yells Caines, during the song’s forgettable three-minute runtime.
Despite the obvious issues, there are some moments where Coasts come close to the formula that made Oceans so listenable. A Rush Of Blood, which is one of the latest singles to be taken from the record, is another slick pop tune that possesses an anthemic chorus worthy of all the enthusiastic buzz around the band. The song was produced by Eliot James (Two Door Cinema Club and Noah And The Whale) and it tells.
Another highlight is Stay, one of the first songs Coasts ever wrote. It may not have the catchy chorus of their breakthrough single, but it is evidence of the band doing something a bit different and that is what is so sorely lacking throughout most of this album. There is little here that will make you do a double take or look for the repeat button, leaving this as the sort of album that can be played harmlessly in the background.
Tracks such as Modern Love – which has a touch of The Wombats about it – and Your Soul are perfectly serviceable, but neither gives the impression of a band trying to push the limits of their sound. In fact, the same criticism could be levelled at a number of young bands at the moment, such as Catfish and The Bottlemen and Years And Years, but at least those acts are able to consistently produce catchy songs with their repetitive formula.
The same cannot be said of Coasts’ debut LP and it is for that reason that it doesn’t live up to the hype. It is no necessarily a bad record, but it is seriously lacking in memorable moments, which is a crying shame considering how good Oceans still sounds. There is still enough here to please their already passionate fanbase, but Coasts will need to take far more risks next time around if they really want to make their mark.