"What a year this day has been / What a day this year has been." Wherein songwriter Bethany Cosentino grapples with life as an especially prominent HRO tag, seeding love songs to both California and that one guy in that other band with Nicks/Buckingham-style confectionary bile. She made a hash of "Rhiannon," but this works great as her Tusk, tuneful but tough, expertly guarded but frequently guileless, aiming to please but only on her own exacting terms, and fuck the (various, virtual) critics. "I don't want to be how they want me to be," she's telling you, the whole time, even in those moments when she is not actually repeatedly singing the words, "I don't want to be how they want me to be."
Jon Brion gussies her sound up — a power-pop shut-in's brain, a beach bum's heart, maybe vice versa, an emotionally complicated voice making the absolute most out of simple sun/fun phone/alone rhyme schemes — without over-fussing, and from here she could go anywhere. Joni Mitchell's knowingly loopy Laurel Canyon? Jenny Lewis' smart-ass Silverlake? Joan Jett's stylized gutter? Brion's own songwriter's-songwriter braniac farm down at Largo? Neko Case's strident alt-siren forest far to the north? Fiona's hyper-fussy alternate universe? Her boyfriend's skatepark? Or maybe just In-N-Out and then the beach, for the 50,000th time, still as perfect as the first, dark clouds be damned. (Actual bonus tracks: "Mean Girls" and "Angsty.") ROB HARVILLA