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The Sea and Cake - Everybody

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Artist: The Sea and Cake

Album: Everybody

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Apr. 24, 2007

Elegantly syncopated, breezily melancholy, Everybody slips by like a soft summer afternoon. It's the seventh album by this post-rockers-on-Brazilian-pop-holiday foursome -- Sam Prekop, Archer Prewitt, Eric Claridge and John McEntire. It's maybe a little spinier and rock leaning than earlier efforts, but still, so effortlessly, lullingly pretty that serious listening becomes difficult. You catch a lyric or two, notice the bass line percolating under a track, admire the restlessly imaginative drums for a bar...and then all the sudden, you're staring out the window again, wrapped in daydreams.....

Sorry, there I go again.

Though it's the first Sea and Cake album not to be engineered and produced solely by McEntire (Brian Paulson ran the boards at Key Club), Everybody has a crystalline clarity. Every element, from kick drum to keyboard, sounds as if it has been wrapped in shiny plastic so as not to impinge too much on its neighbors.

Vocals are another instrument, slipping delicately in and out of the foreground. Sam Prekop has a light jazzy touch, casually, offhandedly melodic as he cruises through the songs. His delivery is oddly syncopated, a string of words murmured with one or two popped like snare shots for emphasis. You find yourself paying more attention to tone and odd rhythmic emphasis, and retaining almost none of the lyrics even after repeated listens.

Prekop's voice is, I think, the sweetening element to this band's sound. When he takes a back seat, as on "Left On", the instrumentals turn more tumultuous and driving. The long introduction to "Exact to Me" is as precise and structured as a geometry problem. The guitar/bass/drum interplay is jittery and full of acute angles, only just smoothed over by the vocals when they enter in.

Everybody's strongest songs are, not coincidentally, also the most muscular, the ones that link cotton candy melodies with stronger elements. For instance, "Crossing Line" pits Prekop's blue-eyed soul trills against a fuzzy, distorted guitar line that would fit comfortably into a Superchunk song. It's like a rock anthem coated in glitter dust. And at the beginning of "Middlenight", Archer Prewitt kicks out a slow, radiant guitar solo that gives the song a subtle swagger. "Up on Crutches" has a strong whiff of Seals & Crofts in its opening, yet its saved from yacht-rock-tepidity by a mobile bass line and tense, driving drumming. (Though the flute solo at the end is fairly icky.)

An album that is easy to listen to, but hard to grasp, Everybody wraps its complexities in bright soap bubble diaphanies. It's so pleasant on the surface that you might just skim along forever on its delicate melodies, and miss the restless syncopation and artful interplay underneath. And really, with summer coming, what would be wrong with that?

By Jennifer Kelly

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