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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The Sea and Cake
Car Alarm
Thrill Jockey

Rating: 8.6/10 ?

October 14, 2008
Breezy and sometimes avant-garde, The Sea and Cake continue to hone their distinct sound on their seventh full-length LP. Their latest follows up 2007's well-received Everybody with equally brilliant results. Similar to their past releases, on Car Alarm the quartet draws inspiration from other genres, creating a jazz-influenced, rock-based hybrid. The album, at its core, is polished and methodical with a colorful swagger. Though mellow, it would be unjust to categorize Car Alarm as "easy-listening." There is much more to be noticed.

The formation of The Sea and Cake came with the demise of The Coctails and Shrimp Boat in the mid-1990s, and the group quickly became one of indie-rock's preeminent bands. In the midst of the grunge explosion - an era of heavy power chords and obvious discontent - the four-piece from Chicago boldly introduced experimental, technique-obsessed rock. Divergence from the mainstream has proven successful, as evidenced by a fourteen-year career span and an ability to stay relevant in contemporary music circles.

Car Alarm teeters between delicate and forceful, sometimes flirting with a momentum that never really threatens a loss of control. Perhaps unconsciously, The Sea and Cake celebrate their roots with a straight-forwardness suggestive of the 90s scene they established themselves in. Their mid-tempo arrangements allow for each instrumental or vocal nuance to surface: Sam Prekop's fluid, introspective vocals; John McEntire's driving percussion; Archer Prewitt's shimmering guitar; Eric Claridge's interjected synth. As technically trained musicians, the quartet plays with impeccable precision, not unlike today's math-rock groups.

What's interesting is the band's ability to manipulate the sonic integrity of their instruments. On "A Fuller Moon," the album's second track, the guitar adopts an almost horn-like sound and later, on "New Schools," bell-like. The wordless "CMS Sequence" offers distorted synth and a thumping beat reminiscent of an archaic video game. Oddly enough, Prekop's consistent legato is complimented by the indeterminate tweaking, plucking, and twinkling throughout the album.

Because they, as a band, put the focus on dynamics, their accents become all the more dramatic and interesting. "Weekend" offers a steady disco beat, changing pace with its nervous staccato. Conversely, "Staircase" increasingly builds until dropping back down to nothing into retardando. Car Alarm's title track features hushed, breathy vocals and a sense of urgency. There is weight to Prekop's tone that is neither aggressive nor intense, but authoritative.

At times, there is a want for chaos as Car Alarm primarily maintains its formula across the board. Then again, structure and exactitude are what define the band. Deceptively intricate and ever-changing in style, The Sea and Cake give further proof why they've had such staying power.

Reviewed by Lara Longo
Lara Longo is a writer and photographer from Brooklyn, NY. In 1989, Lara received her first CD player and album, Appetite for Destruction; ever since, music is something she has fawned over, hated on, and played loudly. Her work has also appeared in Relix and New York Cool. Lara’s interests include sharks, European television, and the Hammond B3 organ.

See other reviews by Lara Longo



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