The Sea and Cake


(Thrill Jockey; 2007)

By Peter Hepburn | 26 January 2008

There are times, walking home from work or hanging out on a beautiful spring day, when a challenge is the last thing you want from your stereo. Sure, that new Battles disc is awesome, and if you haven't checked out the new Isjala and Parts and Labor albums yet you're really missing out. There are times, though, when the experimental or innovative seems less alluring, when something familiar seems like the way to go. This is where the Sea and Cake come in handy.

The breeziest band in show business is back with album number seven and, well, it's a lot like numbers one through six. Because despite the impressive pedigree of its members, the Sea and Cake has never really been about experimentation. They make pop music, much of it very similar; they operate with a largely consistent formula: John McEntire plays upbeat but underwhelming drum parts, Eric Claridge and Archer Prewitt provide an aurally pleasing background, and Sam Prekop sings in that high, pretty tenor of his. It's a good model, and there's something to be said for having managed to carve out seven records without all that much change. Perhaps most impressive is that this new album, Everybody, is actually quite good, easily their best this side of the millennial divide.

On the other hand, since there really hasn't been much of a change, you know what you're going to get. Most of the songs here aren't much of a leap from either One Bedroom (2003) or Oui (2000). Hell, a lot of the time you barely even notice the difference between songs; the first of the album especially has a way of folding into itself. But the thing is, even when taken in chunks like that, it's a pleasant album. From the catchy opener of "Up on Crutches" through the slightly quieter "Coconuts" the Sea and Cake offer a lovely set of sunny pop music, still more solid than what most bands could produce. Even if it does sound a bit familiar.

The second half actually lets things get a bit more interesting. "Exact to Me" is the highlight here, letting McEntire, Claridge, and Prewitt lock into a slinky little bit of afro-beat phrasing. Prekop's delivery is the same as everywhere else, but the track still provides a nice little kick in the middle of the record. The band concludes with the album's longest tracks; "Left On" provides them a chance to be a bit more anthemic, while "Transparent" plays it slow and simple for a pretty closer.

None of this is groundbreaking music, not even in comparison with their previous work. It's well-produced, pretty, and, yes, breezy pop music, and there's a place for that too. I certainly can't think of many bands that do it better.