Coasts is the kind of record that makes me question the entire enterprise of listening to music. Why are humans compelled to listen to music? There are some chemical reasons for it, but what do we hope to gain? I know my answer, but I am unable to come up with a strawman’s justification for spending time with Coasts.

Imagine an atomic bomb going off in Las Vegas. Imagine the twisted crater it would create, the pot-mark of melted steel that would result, the maw of broken glass that would shoot up from the earth like a horrible mouth and would coat miles around the ruined city. Imagine the sun glaring off the now foreign ground. It would look like Dave Gibbons’ Mars. It would look beautiful in its lifelessness. It would look how Coasts sounds.

Coasts’ self-titled album, which is little more than a compilation of the band’s past EPs, follows the same patterns and shares the same ambitions of chart-toppers like Walk the Moon and Ambassador X. It is vaguely grandiose, full of ballads about the very loosest of notions of “love” and “romance,” so rote and generalized that it barely exists. It is as pure an agent of commerce as any album I’ve heard this year; its sole goal appears to be securing a mid-afternoon spot at Lollapalooza or a Disclosure remix to increase exposure. This isn’t music for people—its music for a bank.

The sad legacy of Coldplay hangs over Coasts. It has taken that band’s worst impulses of bombastic, nuance-free emotional declaration and mechanically-polished vocals and pushed them to the breaking point. It is an expensively-produced noise machine, full of songs that sedate without bringing rest, flirt without ever fucking.

We fell in love/ Right by the ocean,” the album tells us on “Oceans,” without expressing anything but a movie trailer’s idea of what love might look like. “I’ll make you shake like your bed,” the song promises, showing in its flashing insubstantially a child’s understanding and confidence of sex. There are bands that hit these marks. Interesting acts like We Were Promised Jet Packs and Foals are ostensibly cut from the same cloth of post-punk and U2-worship, and deliver their promises either on the back of their emotional earnestness (the former) or their songwriting proficiency (the latter). Far behind is Coasts, which sounds like the band is attempting to monetize the two, having only heard these touchstones through a passing car window.

The sole redeeming song is “Lions,” and I’m not convinced it works divorced from the album. Here though, it is the sole resistance to the idea that bigger is better. Its aims are small, and it sounds better for it. This is a quiet little song with a jumpy guitar riff that could suggest something beyond dance rock. Of course, this being Coasts, it is awash in reverb and echo, as if the song couldn’t stand up to scrutiny without them.

Why would anyone listen to Coasts when, at their very best, they make bloodless music that is too late to ride the dace-rock wave of the early aughts? It’s easy and available, that’s for sure. It asks for nothing and gives nothing in return. Forget those reasons. We are who we are because of our choices, and even choosing nothing is, itself, a choice. We are better than Coasts.

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