Car Alarm, The Sea and Cake’s seventh full-length record, is bracing, like the surge of wasabi on sweet sushi, like the slap of cool water on a diving body, like the head-rush of a rollercoaster just leaving summit.
Historically, The Sea and Cake have stayed the course since forming in Chicago in 1993, but over the last couple of years they have pulled in even tighter, recording hot and fast on the heels of a busy performance schedule without breaking for other projects. The sense of trust and communication that is key to a working band is cultivated over the long haul. Stop working together, and those connections go dormant, hibernate; keep on trucking, and they deepen and get sharper, allowing the band to reach for new things, experiment freely, evolve and develop and grow.
The Sea and Cake’s aim in creating Car Alarm was to follow up quickly on its precursor, the stripped down Everybody. Sam Prekop says the band wanted to make a record that felt like they had never stopped playing, a continuously limbered up ensemble that parlayed its last tour into new material. They started working on it right after an Australian tour in March, and finished it after a miraculous three-month gestation. If the usual process in pop music is to make a record and then breathe life into it on the road, this flips that presumption on its head, starting with a vital, pulsing set-list on disc; what heights they’ll take the new songs to in concert only remains to be seen.
Where in the past, The Sea and Cake has disbursed between records to allow each member their individual pursuits – Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt’s artwork and solo projects, John McEntire’s production at his SOMA Studio and work with Tortoise, Eric Claridge’s alternate identity as a painter – in this case they didn’t disband, but dove straight into Car Alarm. The quickness reflects a personal urgency, too, given the imminent delivery of Prekop’s firstborn. Thoughts of fatherhood may lend a kind of optimistic air to the record. It has the open, crisp sound that The Sea and Cake have spent 15 years crafting, but Car Alarm also has a palpable edge. That’s the edge of people who know each other well enough to push a bit harder, who aren’t worried about ruffling each other’s feathers or trying something different, difficult, intuitive, trusting. Something bracing.
— John Corbett
Car Alarm will be released October 21st on Thrill Jockey.
02. a Fuller Moon
03. on a Letter
04. CMS Sequence
05. Car Alarm
07. New Schools
08. Window Sills
09. Down in the City
11. the Staircase