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Last time we heard from Best Coast, they were operating in a very lo-fi place. It’s plausible that this was equal parts intentional and a function of their low-profile status at the time. Crazy For You was a feisty and satisfying pop record that recalled jangle rock and the noise of My Bloody Valentine (although that may have simply been the production style). Songs were generally bright, but singer Bethany Cosentino sounded restrained and held in by the style of the record.

That all gets blown open with the spectacular sophomore release, The Only Place. Instead of dealing in the lo-fi MBV-esque regime, Best Coast sounds warm, bright, and almost alt-country. It’s a shocking switch, made even more dramatic with the titular semi-tourism song “The Only Place” as the opening track. But here’s the thing: it works. “The Only Place” is a leading candidate for Song of the Year at this point, with its high energy, strong guitars and exceptional vocals. That last point is something you notice through the whole album: Cosentino has transformed from a satisfying-yet-unremarkable singer to an excellent vocalist. The change in production style lends her freedom to explore vocally and it’s instantly rewarding.

While the rest of the record never hits the same ultra-high point as the opener, it’s still extremely impressive. More of the first song pop-energy is found in the cuts “Do You Still Love Me Like You Used To” and “Let’s Go Home.” Alt-country sneaks in with slightly-twangy guitars on slow-burn track “No One Like You.” Song sequencing is reasonably logical and mixes up the tempos and styles without causing total ear whiplash.

Any remaining reservations about The Only Place should be eliminated by considering the sonic feel. This sounds like a summer record (even if lyrical content focuses on Costentino’s emotional explorations). The opening track establishes the direction with its warm sounds and the phrase during the refrain, “We’ve got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun, we’ve got the waves.” It’s summertime. Play this really loud in the car with the windows down and you’ll feel like you’ve joined the band in California.

This is miles better than the Best Coast debut, so soak up the sounds, enjoy the band’s growth, and go buy this excellent record.

Rating: 9.5/10