Thursday, May 19, 2011
The Sea and Cake — The Moonlight Butterfly
Either the band's shortest album yet or their best EP, the Sea and Cake is back and they've released another collection of songs that feels —yet again— like a breath of completely fresh air. While they've certainly done their share of branching out past their humble dual jangle guitar roots in their seventeen year career, with Car Alarm, they reasserted their prominence as one of the best jangle guitar bands around and this new one just coasts along on similar vibes.
The question of whether or not this is Sam Prekop's band is answered, as the title track here is a nod to his abstract experimental synthesizer revelation (last year's Old Punch Card), but it is so in a more streamlined way. It sounds straight out of the Old Punch Card sessions, but revised to fit the mode of the band. It's a sparkly soft synth instrumental that absolutely shouldn't work coming right after two charging washes of pure Sea and Cake pop magic —that would be the vintage super fast S+C opener 'Covers' and it's surprisingly psychedelic follow 'Lyrics' (which has an Eric Claridge bassline is so good and so melodic that you'd swear he was trying to be Peter Hook)— but instead, 'The Moonlight Butterfly' plays as a dreamy interlude.
The big shocker here is 'Inn Keeping' which, at ten and a half minutes, is the longest thing the band has yet recorded. At times, it almost feels like one of those 1980's "Extended mix" versions of songs that popped up on 12" singles that would awesomely drag a song out by letting each layer, each riff and each piece of the song build into the track every two or four bars and then just keep riffing away at the tune for another four or five minutes. I hesitate to call it one of the band's best songs just yet, but holy hell is it good. If nothing else, it showcases the Kraut Rock side of the band (which they have always possessed) in clear daylight. Sweet.
Sure, the heavy synthesizers from One Bedroom are back and all of them have a very similar sound to the tones heard on Old Punch Card (heck, even a fairly concise song like 'Up on the North Shore' ascends into layers of white out analogue bliss), but it's all filtered through the band's (rediscovered?) sense of longing melodies and their absolute perfection of layers of pure jangly harmonic euphoria.
It's easy to neglect a band like the Sea and Cake. And yet, they never let me down. Album after album, defiant change in sound, defiant non-change in sound or just flat out playing what sounds good, they have become something that is pretty much unquestionable in terms of criticism by this point. Sure, it's easier to sit back and admire at the pure beauty of their music, but it's also necessary to do that first, in order to fully understand why I love them for what they do.