You’ll Smile When You Hear The Sea and Cake’s “Runner”

11 Mar

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I just discovered a band from Chicago that has been around the indie scene for almost two decades and is still creating fresh, new music. The Sea and Cake plays synthesizer-infused rock or post-rock with occasional jazzy touches that make them sound like something of a 21st century Steely Dan at times.

The Sea and Cake’s latest is “Runner” on Thrill Jockey Records. If you count an EP from 2011, it’s the band’s 10th release. The album features excellent musicianship and tight production, with a number of tracks that really stood out for me. The best in my opinion is “Harps.” It’s a light and breezy melody that floats in on a synth loop and then kicks into overdrive with a march-like rhythm supporting Sam Prekop’s yearning, breathy vocals. Once you’ve heard it a couple of times, it’s hard to get out of your head — great for a long bike ride or your morning run!

Another strong single is “On and On.” The opener on the 10-track album, it sounds a little like a refined, slightly distorted Sonic Youth number — with good energy and a nice hook. “A Mere,” which follows “On and On” and “Harps,” gives a nod to the folk rock of the late 1960s and 1970s, almost reminding me of the Grateful Dead. “The Invitations” starts out with a meandering synth-y wash with reverb-y vocals before transitioning to a jazzy groove that is most reminiscent of Steely Dan.

The CD closes with the title track — a simultaneously haunting and mesmerizing song constructed with shimmering electric guitar and lovely floating vocals. While The Sea and Cake is new to me, the band may not be to you. If you’re a long-time fan, it’s definitely time to get reacquainted. And if this is your first listen, “Runner” is a musical exercise you’ll really appreciate.

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