There’s something about California girls that keeps us coming back for more. The Beach Boys first helped us fall in love with them in 1965, then they melted our popsicles in 2010 (thanks to Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg), and now, for better or worse, the smell of west coast pheromones is engrained in our heads thanks to Los Angeles singer-songwriter/producer Noah McBeth (aka “NoMBe”). Sporting a unique, laid back blend of electro soul, indie pop and old school hip-hop, NoMBe’s “California Girls” may very well be this year’s song of the summer.
“California Girls” is the massively chill and sexy first single off NoMBe’s forthcoming EP, Mood Indigo. Those who follow indie music blogs and new music trends may already be familiar with “California Girls,” which came out in March and recently reached the #1 position on the highly coveted Hype Machine charts, as well as the #1 position on Spotify’s massively influential Global Viral Top 50 charts. If anything can be said from such an achievement, it’s that people are still in love with California girls.
However, there’s a lot more to a song than its subject matter, and it’s the subtle complexities in NoMBe’s music and lyrics that keep me listening to (and now, watching) “California Girls” again and again. The track is sultry and dark – beat-driven, but melodically focused. McBeth’s vocals are hypnotizing, fluctuating between softly tempered and richly full states. His lyrical flow is poetic, personal, emotional, and unique; the song does not follow a strict verse/chorus setup, meaning you’re never sure what’s going to happen next.
Ooh how I like the smell of west coast pheromones
That volatility echoes through “California Girls,” manifesting itself in the music, the lyrics, the music video (directed by Luca Repola), and the subject matter. In the music, we hear NoMBe struggling throughout with what might be considered a love/hate relationship; in the video, that relationship is with a bandmate/friend’s girlfriend:
The story starts with NoMBe watching her sunbathe in the friend’s pool. The three leave the house together, and as the sun sets, NoMBe and crew drive out of town and into a natural setting. The friends do a line of cocaine as our main character asks someone for directions.
We’re in the woods now, and the mood is relaxed. NoMBe and girl spend the hike exchanging passing looks and flirtatious taps, eventually sharing a kiss during a private moment. NoMBe finds himself in inner turmoil, torn between passion and friendship, unsure of his next move. The girl and friend do more lines of cocaine.
Back home now, the scene becomes tense. NoMBe and his friend eventually get into a shouting match over a game of tennis, with the girl (very symbolically) in between them. NoMBe then leaves a practice session, unable to stand the sight of the two together. He walks out, needing some time alone. That night, his friends end up doing lines of cocaine in the car without him.
The music turns dark and heavier as the girl slouches in her seat. NoMBe sings, “Ooh how I like the smell of west coast pheromones.” She gets out of the car, struggling to breathe, before dropping to the ground as she goes into shock. Her body shakes uncontrollably on the pavement, and her face reveals excruciating pain as the video goes into a montage sequence. The boyfriend drives away, possibly for help or possibly in fear. She’s alone, lying there. Her life passes before her eyes as she violently trembles. At first, she sees the warm, shining sun and the deep blue water. Next, the car driving off….
She clenches her lips, eyes closed tight in pain.
She sees the moments together with NoMBe: flirting, holding hands, and lastly, sitting with him as he teaches her guitar.
She lies still.
The “California Girls” music video takes the already great song to even greater depths. NoMBe’s fusion of colorful styles and ear for haunting melodies makes “California Girls” an instantly memorable piece, and the video is just as heartbreaking as it is beautiful. Fall back in love with “California Girls” just in time for the summer, courtesy of NoMBe.
Listen: “California Girls” – NoMBe
:: “California Girls” – NoMBe ::
She loves the sunlight
how it paints on her soft skin
takes care of those tan line
scar tissue from the morphine
Baby don’t you know you are stardust
and you’re a long long way from home, way from home
(So) Baby brush it off like it’s sawdust
or you’ll spend the California days alone, days alone.
those California Girls got me outside all night
this is the last straw
take it off
this is the last straw
why don’t you take it all
She ain’t never seen the zoo
with the monkey on her back
they’d arrest her at the booth
and then sell her to the lab
put a label on the box that says
treat is like it’s glas
if she gets one scratch her parents
never take her back
to be honest
she’s a liar full of promise
she thinks her Rolex makes her timeless.
her famous friends think she’s harmless
I’d burn the bridge with her on it.
(California girls got me outside all night)
Pinned down, pinnacle
she looks like a centerfold sinner, cynical (baby)
Oh my, make her moan, amateur, barritone
sex drive, like animals (baby)
Ooh how I like the smell of west coast pheromones (2x)
she smells like west coast pheromones (2x)