The Sea and Cake Car Alarm

[Thrill Jockey; 2008]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: post-rock, post-jazz, indie rock
Others: Tortoise, Yo La Tengo, Sam Prekop, Pinback

The Sea and Cake have been recording together for 15 long years, taking breaks between albums to allow members to delve into their other projects, which range from solo albums to artwork to playing with well-known post-rock bands like Tortoise. Car Alarm, the band's seventh full-length effort, represents their first departure from this long-standing approach -- not only did the band not break between this album and their previous full-length, Everybody, but they intentionally conceived this new album as its continuation. And it shows.

Indeed, Car Alarm follows the well-received Everybody formulaically; it boasts the band's typically tight arrangements (thanks at least in part to lead singer Sam Prekop's Ph.D. in Music) coupled with the organic, composed-in-the-moment structures that made Everybody so endearing. Not every band can pull off this diametrically oppositional combination, but The Sea and Cake make it sound easy: "New Schools," which devolves into a jammy, comfortable rift midway, and the jazzy, uptempo "Fuller Moon" are both astutely arranged, yet sound open and loose.

Sure, it's still hard to decipher Prekop's lyrics, and yes, they haven't necessarily expanded musically from their last effort, but The Sea and Cake have never relied on constructions of "progression" or sounding of the time. Instead, The Sea and Cake have a more seasonal, cyclical resonance (for example: where Everybody was perfect for a warm summer day, Car Alarm, whether intentionally or not, moves The Sea and Cake's music into the crispness of the cooling fall weather), without sounding trite or exhausted. It's at once simple, colorful, and cozy, but, if examined closely enough, can be appreciated on another level entirely -- one that's both casually sophisticated and quietly intelligent.

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