The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Get Swept Away With The Sea And Cake

By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 16, 2011 10:45PM

2011_12_16_The Sea and Cake - Photo by Megan Holmes - SeaandCake.jpg
Photo by Megan Holmes
Effortlessness has it's own special appeal, and in music, it's an especially winning quality; nothing is quite as tiring as a band that sounds like it's trying so hard. The Sea and Cake-perhaps thanks to their years or experience or supergroup-like lineup-have always had a knack for making great music that sounds like it rolls off the tongue and fingertips of Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt with the greatest of ease.

With the recent release of The Moonlight Butterfly, the Sea and Cake show how to negotiate the fine line between consistency and boredom without ever falling on the wrong side. Prewitt's sunny-with-a-chance-of-clouds guitar lines have the same feel as the ones from The Biz almost 15 years earlier, but without any twinge of nostalgia. Though the music sounds so very "Sea and Cake" (which, mind you, has never ever been a bad thing), there are sprouts of change and experimentation in the music. The Sea and Cake know their strengths and play to them, but keep a freshness sealed in with reliability.

Prekop's somewhat recent solo exploration of analog synthesizers is the key area where the band's music starts to branch out; post-punk synth whirs are front and center on the title track, while "Inn Keeping" has a distinctly Krautrock backbone, thanks to Prekop and drummer John McEntire.

Elsewhere, the synth takes a supporting role to create the album's warm and mellow feel. Though the band has backed off a bit from the 1960s Brazilian Tropicalia and African rhythm influences, the album is not without punchy moments. Energetic tracks like "Up On The North Shore" brings a quick buzz to balance the enjoyable lulls of an album that ends all too quickly.

The Moonlight Butterfly is consistent with the Sea and Cake's body of work, but shows us enough new moves to keep listeners from having a case of deja vu. The band is exploring some new areas more confidently and intentionally than they have in some time. The familiarity of the album is rewarding, while the experiments are exciting. Our only kvetch: clocking in at just over 30 minutes, The Moonlight Butterfly isn't long enough by half.

The Sea and Cake play the Empty Bottle Saturday, December 17 at 10 p.m., $18, $20 at the door