★★★★ (out of 5 stars)
South Florida garage rockers Beach Day have endured their own big changes. Bassist Natalie Smallish exited the fold, and frontwoman Kimmy Drake and drummer Skyler Black now only add a third member for tours. And the core duo left the sunny shores of Hollywood Beach for dead-of-winter Detroit to record new album Native Echoes with famed garage rock producer Jim Diamond. Surprisingly, Diamond smoothed the sloppy punk edges found on Beach Day’s 2013 debut, Trip Trap Attack, smartly making instrumentation ride shotgun to Drake’s sumptuous vocals on New Wave-inspired tracks like “The Lucky One,” “Don’t Call Me on the Phone” and “BFFs.” In fact, primal White Stripes-like thumps only show up on a couple of songs (“Pretty,” “I’m Just Messin’ Around”) – and they’re the album’s weakest. Instead, something mysterious beckons in the field-recorded ocean sounds and one-string surf riff of instrumental “Gnarly Waves,” along with the heady swirl of “Fades Away” and “Lost Girl.” And the five-minute “How Do You Sleep at Night” provides a fantastic deep-woods contrast to Beach Day’s syrupy early work. Old fans might become snub-noses, but Native Echoes charts creative new territory – and will probably attract a lot more attention.