The Sea and Cake, Car Alarm (Thrill Jockey)
Not really famous for straying the course, Car Alarm is an album that you would expect to come from Chicago’s the Sea and Cake. If you’re into the band, then odds are you know exactly what to expect, and you will dig it. And why wouldn’t you? All the key elements have been assembled for a typically great Sea and Cake record: Sam Prekop’s smooth, breathy vocals, Eric Claridge’s impressive and tight bass playing, John McEntire’s jazzy and precise drumming and the jangly guitars of Prekop and Archer Prewitt. Like all their records, it is a combination of indie rock, pop, jazz and tropicalia. It is the obvious next step the band could have taken after 2007’s awesomely poppy Everybody, with a very subtle return to some of the electronic sounds of the previous few records (check “Weekend” for some oscillating keyboard work that makes us yearn for some of the blippity-bloop jams from 1997’s The Fawn).
After almost 16 years worth of stellar, reliable releases, Car Alarm mostly sticks to the same strategy the band always has. But, we’re huge fans, so we couldn’t care less. Never change, boys. — Aaron Quillen
Allá, Es Tiempo (Crammed Discs, 2008)
MP3: “Una Dia Otra Noche”
If you’re anything like us, you got kicked out of Spanish class in high school on a pretty regular basis. No offense to the Spanish language or anything — it’s one of the most gorgeous in all the world — but there was something about having to sit through a week’s worth of “Don Quixote” cartoons that made us a little antsy and reactionary. Our fault, not Spain’s. Thankfully, in our music listening experience, our inability to understand Espagnol hasn’t really come into play; it’s not like we’re over here rocking Menudo on a regular basis. But all that changed once Es Tiempo — the debut by Chicago trio Allá — graced our ears. As it stands, we can’t understand a word vocalist Angel Ledezma is singing; yep, the whole thing is in Spanish (el doh!). But, hey…it sure sounds pretty. And coupled with Allá’s space-age bachelor pad grooves, jazzy undertones, occasional hip-hop flourishes, and heavy Tropicália influence, there’s enough to latch on to that makes the language barrier become less of an issue, and more of a welcome adornment to an exotic listening experience. With it’s sweeping strings and airy drumming, “Una Dia Otra Noche” announces the album’s breezy theme; one that is carried throughout, and best exemplified on the night-time funk track “Un Pedazo,” the Spanish-guitar laced Continue reading “Allá Es Grande!”