Kraljevi "relaksiranog indie-popa" proglašavaju svoj deseti feudalni fuzzy-jazzy posjed. Pogledao sam kroz prozor da vidim koja 1995. je vani.
After 18 years and nine studio albums, The Sea and Cake could be forgiven for losing their inclination and ability to create effortlessly great records – but thankfully, they haven’t.
After a hiatus and solo projects aplenty, the laid-back quartet from Chicago have continued to progress – albeit with a sound that never strays far from the relaxed indiepop they’re renowned for.
On Runner, their fourth album in five years, they band flirt with synth sounds from time to time, and succeed when they do so. The Invitations is sparse and dense all at once, while on Pacific, the keys are used to much more cheery effect.
For the majority of the album, however, The Sea and Cake stay stick to what they know – and do it mightily well. Opener On and On starts the record off with an energetic bang, but it’s a false start, as standout Harps follows as perhaps the most laid-back song the band has ever dropped it’s also up there with the best. A beautiful slice of mellow, shimmering pop, its most impressive aspect is perhaps how of its time it feels. It sounds like the sort of raw, progressive song that you’d expect from some new blog-trending upstarts, not a group of indie veterans.
Harbor Bridges also deserves a special mention. Set at a different pace to the rest of the record, it features a incredibly addictive acoustic riff that shares the stage with some of the best lyrics on the album.
Runner is a carefully pieced together album that showcases this band’s musical expertise in countless ways – but, perhaps more tellingly, also demonstrates their hunger for continuing to make the most of their talents. Impressive stuff. - Alex King
Runner is The Sea and Cake’s 10th album in 18 years, during which time the Chicago band’s guitar-led blend of indie, jazz, Brazilian and African melodic patterns and electronic atmospheres has changed in ways that are very much more about evolution than revolution. If you woke up not knowing if this was 1995 or 2012, hearing the latest Sea and Cake album wouldn’t settle the issue.
But Radiohead-style reinvention is only one strategy for keeping your art fresh. The Sea and Cake are on a more minimalist trajectory, which last year saw them produce one of their better (and briefest) albums, The Moonlight Butterfly. It might be an exaggeration to call that album and Runner examples of late style – the distinct phase certain artists enter into towards the end of their careers – but band leader Sam Prekop has said of these new songs that in their developmental stage he “became quite cavalier with them, painting with a new fat sloppy brush… The songs were feeling pleasantly out of control.”
Big differences in process don’t necessarily result in big differences in the end product, but the important thing is not that Runner should sound new, but that it should sound fresh. And for much of its length it undeniably does. Prekop’s smooth vocal line nuzzles the melody, his distinctive style sounding like a man who knows the tune and the metre, but isn’t 100% sure of the words. His voice mirrors the lapping, breaking-wave interplay between Prewitt and Prekop’s guitars and John McEntire’s and Eric Claridge’s rhythm bed that characterises the band’s dreamiest work, exemplified here on closing track The Runner.
The album’s upbeat tracks, like Harps, are infectious, and the almost syrupy New Patterns – which could be vintage Lemonheads for much of its length – makes an interesting shift into delicately textured Krautrock, but it’s the album’s more reflective passages, like A Mere, that house its greatest pleasures.
The Sea and Cake’s music is more about mood than narrative, as with the largely acoustic Harbor Bridges’ gorgeous evocation of summer’s end. It’s this quiet sort of noticing, at which they’re so skilled, that suggests the band’s autumn could be a long and productive one. - Chris Power
True to their name, the Sea and Cake really are as sweet as meringue and as soothing as warm waves breaking over one's toes. Their 10th album, Runner, offers catchy lullabies underscored with just enough melancholy to confirm it's the end of summer and finds the band in much the same mood they've been in since 1997, crafting fuzzy, jazz-leaning guitar pop that's inventive enough to shake off any accusations of hipster posturing. Sam Prekop still sings like Bob Dylan two octaves up, and drummer John McEntire maintains the snares-and-cymbals style he employs with his main band, Tortoise.
That isn't to say the Chicago four piece is out of ideas: The album explores the band's fascination with jazz without forgetting the sunny beach vibes they've become famous for. "A Mere" matches skittery, freeform guitars with Prekop's ruminations on the breakup of a relationship, while "Harbor Bridges" is 12-string nostalgia for summers long past. "Skyscraper" follows a more orthodox indie-rock route as Prekop attempts a David Bowie howl, pausing only for Archer Prewitt's fuzzy guitar solos. The band also flirts with minimalism, such as the percussive march of "Pacific" and the languid, reverberating guitar part of the title track.
Other songs, however, fall victim to over-indulgence. Although only half the tracks break the four minute mark, some feel longer and unfocused, and a few of the more experimental ideas quickly grow tiresome. "On and On" is surf rock on lithium, taking the Drums' beach-party ingredients (drowsy guitars and excited vocals) and stretching them to the point where they no longer feel fun. There's a similar aimlessness on "New Patterns," which only settles on a melody after Prewitt has spent 60 seconds tuning up his guitar. And the more complex "Neighbors and Township" is disorientating in a different way, with rigid, tight, post-hardcore-style notes that circle till they lose shape, finally trying to rearrange themselves into a slow country rhythm. But this striving for variety, and the fact the Sea and Cake run with every idea regardless of how soon it tires, is also one of their charms. - George Bass