The Sea and Cake | Car Alarm
Most Likely To: make listeners feel smarter, like an indie Mozart effect.
Chicago is getting a lot of attention recently (yay!). But rather than the once in a lifetime gathering at Grant Park, the Sea and Cake’s music resembles the wet and windy labyrinth of everyday Chicago. Throughout their lengthy career the Sea and Cake’s jazz-infused blend of syncopated melodies and breathy vocals remains as indelible as a fingerprint. On Car Alarm, the band’s eight full-length release, their line up (Archer Prewitt, John McEntire, Sam Prekop, and Eric Claridge) and their label (hometown-based Thrill Jockey) remain unchanged.
Car Alarm is never jarring or repetitive like a real car alarm, but instead gently undulates through its twelve tracks. Though Prekop is the main songwriter, Car Alarm feels like a group effort. Nowhere is this more evident than on the title track where multiple melodies buoy the front-and-center vocals. The Sea and Cake are in sync, and even Prewitt’s extended guitar solo on “New Schools” stands out rather than sticking out. Car Alarm is well paced and seamless, even as the band integrates polarizing influences like minor key, Smiths-like melodies (“Window Sills,” “The Staircase”) and light calypso (“Down in the City,” “Mirrors”).
The only down side of Car Alarm is that the Sea and Cake have been so good for so long that it’s hard not to habituate to their talent. “Jacking the Ball” would fit in just as well here as it did kicking off their 1994 debut. Even though Sea and Cake’s sound ain’t broke, there’s a part of me that’s just itching for them to fix it.
Visit Thrill Jockey’s site to hear samples from Car Alarm.