Release Date: May 11, 2018
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Twenty-five years and over ten albums in, The Sea and Cake have proven to be a gently unyielding presence. As they've proven before, give the Chicago mainstays a hiatus and they return with surprising vigour. Now, reduce their line-up by one, and they capitalize on the opportunity waiting in the newly empty space. Not one red speck of rust blemishes the contours of Any Day, its continuity with the band's extended second half run from Everybody to Runner so natural that it is almost surprising to see that this most recent break between studio albums has been their longest, including the time spent on official hiatus in the early 2000s.
The Sea and Cake have been so consistent and so singular for so long that the words "taken for granted" now turn up in their reviews as much as "Chicago" or "post-rock." Their albums do seem to blur together, with each record subjecting the band's signature components--John McEntire's gliding rhythms, Archer Prewitt's jazz-inflected guitar lines, and analog synth tones warmer than a wool sweater--to slight shifts in texture, personnel or backing instruments. But the overall quality of their discography makes a strong argument against the idea that artists must amass a canon of releases that build upon each other in linear fashion. Like a prescription refill, a new Sea and Cake album offers a fresh dose of the same soothing medicine.
The Sea and Cake have long been one of the hidden treasures of the indie rock world. We could map out the potential reasons why they are somehow not as revered as peers like Yo La Tengo or contemporaries such as Tortoise, which shares drummer John McEntire with this ensemble. But that would only draw further focus away from Any Day, their 11th studio album and another sparkling clean and sturdy entry into an already spotless discography.
The Sea and Cake's captivatingly low-key music has brought them little fanfare in their 24-year career, but it has tacitly endeared them to many. Any Day marks their 11th studio album and first in six years, and while they may not be offering a huge departure from their previous efforts' lush avant pop with splashes of jazz and post-rock, they remain one of the most consistent bands in operation. As ever, what they lack in bluster they make up for with craft.
Delivering your first record in six years sets a high bar for any band to try and meet in this age of streaming and diminishing attention spans. Chicago stalwarts The Sea and Cake had the added pressure of appealing to fans both and new with the absence of one of their key members, bassist Eric Claridge. The cover of Any Day, the band's eleventh record in its 25-year career, could be interpreted as a metaphor for a band in flux with a packing box sitting on top of a television.
But all snarking aside, the band is one solid musical identity in a realm of many, and it’s hard to blame them for sticking to a formula of precision tenderness that has never stopped working. They are an expertly mixed poultice for our skin, thick or thin, for a harsh world that doesn’t let up until it does. Then there’s that silence.
It's been hard to keep proper track of Thrill Jockey's still prolific release rate of late; a process complicated by the relative absence of new wares from its elder statesmen and women and by a heavy tide of vinyl reissues. The situation is though now part-rectified with a fresh wave of albums from older-hands within the label's ranks… E - Negative Work E – Negative Work Although actually a relatively new enterprise, E's members had pre-established veteran-status before they joined Thrill Jockey to deliver their eponymous debut album in 2016. The three-headed operation of Thalia Zedek (vocals/guitar; Come, Uzi, Thalia Zedek Band), Jason Sidney Sanford (vocals/guitar; Neptune) and Gavin McCarthy (drums/vocals; Karate) now returns with a second long-player.