After hearing Harps and On and On as early release singles, I knew Runner was going to be a totally new Sea and Cake experience.
The early 2000’s saw The Sea and Cake putting out albums when they weren’t busy with their “other” projects and it showed with the relatively tepid Oui and One Bedroom. Both albums have incredible songs speckled among bedtime jazz and then the band went out hiatus. It wasn’t until 2007 that they would release another record which sounded like a band ready to give it a go full time.
Everybody took the best parts of Sam and Archer (a balance of upbeat and chill) and gave them new life. It showed us that the band was serious about being a full time band and with the quick follow up of Car Alarm in 2008 it seemed as if they were having fun and hitting their writing prime. Hitting stride is evident in Runner’s opener On and On which is an out-and-out rocker and until you hear Sam Prekop’s breathy voice, you aren’t 100% sure it is Sea and Cake. That is one of the great parts about the album, that there are moments where you question if it is the same band or not, but then the trademark guitar strums or vocals come in. Harbor Bridges opens with an acoustic riff and Archer playfully plucks notes on an electric, strangely The Sea and Cake sound longing but not sappy. A beautiful harmony filled chorus, this song usually religated for a solo record makes for a perfect rest before the album’s closing run.
There is no second half let down as there is with a lot of their previous albums. Instead of skipping back to the first few tracks, I am eagerly awaiting the 3 song run of New Patterns, Neighbors and Township and the tremendous Pacific. This three song group are all uptempo and can be considered “rockers”, each with their own blend. Patterns being a more mid-tempo jam with a great closing sequence and guitar segment, Neighbors with its power chords….yes you read that right but it works well as the bridge opens up the tight beat and then Pacific is a bopper. The self titled album closer gets you back on land, lets you wash the salt from your face and pass out in the hammock.
Sam Prekop wrote most of the songs with a synth and sequencer, expanding on the ideas laid out on the Moonlight Butterfly Ep. There is a lighter more personal touch on each one of these songs which is directly reflected in the lyrics and wispy approach. Take Harps which starts with a sequenced beat and then unfolds into dreamy summer lust. The sequenced beats don’t distract from the song, but add a backdrop to the simple guitar patterns and for once Sam’s vocals take center stage. Yes, they are still a bit even in the mix but he sounds more confident and you will care more about the story as a result. Singing of summer, the water and exploring life he sounds upbeat and delivers it with a welcoming bravado. The timid whispering Sam Prekop seems to have made way for a voice that is ready to be heard.
Of the newer material (2007-present) this is the most cohesive and most ambitious album. A band that still has its own blend of jazz and chill rock, yet they are evolving and creating some of the best music without sounding tired. All of the trademark Sea and Cake moments are here, they just sound a little different, a little more confident and a little more excited. With 10 albums and almost 20 years under their belt, they show us that we may not have seen their best, yet.
Score – 9.5/10