I'm sure I'm not the only one curious about how airy crooner/guitarist Sam Prekop is going to follow up his more or less perfect self-titled debut. Even after two unmoving LPs of increasingly glossy massage parlour vapidity via Sea and Cake, there's still the hope that we'll get some sweet soul music on par with "So Shy," "The Company," or "Practice Twice" for the new solo venture.
Well, after absorbing this release thoroughly, I'm am happy to report that Who's Your New Professor has the goods. The soft-light atmosphere and roomy acoustics of that 1999 gem are back, with enough subtle new touches to keep it from being a mere rehashing. Admittedly, the syrupy synths that naggingly drooped over the songs of Oui and One Bedroom are still lingering; they're just not as much in the forefront. My Sam Prekop people out there have plenty to swoon about. This is one lush, warm bit of earcandy that will not let you down.
I know "earcandy" can be a bad word to some, but it's not in this case. Sam and his cohorts have once again crafted a sumptuous platter of low-key soul shufflers that are exceptional models of captivating grace. His harmonic tendencies remain the same. Some detractors might be inclined to suggest that his vocal delivery has grown somewhat samey and stale. I may have even thought so at first, but then I stopped paying such close attention and the music just overtook me. Like the man's elliptical lyrics, his songs carry meaning and affect that is largely elusive to tentative audiences. He's, perhaps inadvertently, tending to that faction of underground music fans that still want songs to make them feel good. And he does so without playing to general expectations of how a feel good rock should hit you. He's still on the edge in terms of distinctiveness, but he sees no point in being edgy while he's there.
Alas, perhaps there's nothing approaching the coolly semi-anthemic splendor of "So Shy." But there are definite highlights. My personal favorite here is the exquisitely warm, climbing "C+F," which begins with a simmer and sweeps into a winning melody that keeps me humming all day. The track then goes back to its initial clap and stomp progression for the final two minutes as drifting horns play in soft, guazey stretches. It's followed by a moody instrumental that is a wonderful change in the overall atmosphere (if only it lasted longed than a minute and a half!). Another standout would have to be the bluesy "Dot Eye," where some of that feedback laden guitar work from Prekop's Nassau days comes to the fore nicely for a finishing instrumental section. This passage demonstrates, much like many of the LP's favorites to-be, the artist's aptitude for fleshing out songs without leaning too much on verse or chorus.
If there is a minor air of disappointment in my regard of this release, it's only relative to the ageless promise suggested by his solo debut and first four Sea and Cake releases. But this impossible standard aside, I couldn't have asked for a more satisfying follow-up. If one approaches Who's Your New Professor on its own merits, and allows a little patience for it to settle in, they'll find there is plenty to love about this sultry rapture of a record.
2. Magic Step
3. Dot Eye
4. Two Dedications
5. Chicago People
6. Little Bridges
7. A Splendid Hollow
8. C + F
9. Neighbor To Neighbor
11. Between Outside