In a certain sense, all of Colbie Caillat's albums sound as if they could be called The Malibu Sessions. Few singer/songwriters of the early 21st century embody the breezy ideals of Southern California as well as Caillat, but she pushed back against her inherent lightness on 2014's Gypsy Heart, co-writing with a battalion of hitmakers and even enlisting mega-producer Max Martin for a track. None of this turned Gypsy Heart into a hit, so she took an indie route for 2016's The Malibu Sessions which, in fact, was the album Caillat hoped to release instead of Gypsy Heart. The tell is the fact that the 2016 album opens with a song called "Gypsy Heart," a tune that is as cheerful and effervescent as the 2014 album was slick. Craftswoman that she is, she pulled off the high-class makeover without a hitch, but The Malibu Sessions reveals how compromised Gypsy Heart actually is. Caillat feels at home, probably because she's working with a crew of old friends who include longtime songwriting partner Jason Reeves, producer John Shanks, and guitarist Justin Young, who also happens to be her fiance. Such comfortable surroundings can't help but make The Malibu Sessions feel cozy, but warmth is her specialty: whether she's strumming a ballad or riding a light reggae beat, she exudes friendliness. Her greatest trick is to be cheerful while managing to never seem cloying. At her best, Caillat feels as relaxing as a lazy afternoon at the beach, and The Malibu Sessions is indeed among her best, a pure distillation of her sunny charms.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine