The Sea & Cake - Runner

Performed with all the vigour and aplomb of fresh-faced youngsters and executed with the deftness of touch of grizzled old hands.

Rating: 8

The Sea & Cake have become a byword for softly spoken, almost hushed, pop experimentation throughout their twenty year career, arguably most eloquently heralded by their 1994 eponymous debut. Gradually streamlining their sound in the meantime, the band evinced on ‘Runner’, their ninth album, revel in their position as aural comfort food, sandwiched between the mild heat of Yo La Tengo and the impassioned bite of Broken Social Scene.

Whereas their previous albums worked notably well as standalone long-players rather than individual tracks, for the new release, mainman Sam Prekop has sacrificed their flow ethic to create ten slick, precise and controlled slices of adult-orientated pop. Lead single ‘Harps’ is a relentlessly chipper exercise in synths n’ sequencers, glistening and gliding along like the soundtrack to endless sun and sandscapes. In fact, the seasons never change on Runner, ‘The Invitations’ is a gorgeous instrumental, the most experimental offering, edging close towards Fennesz-style ambience before the chiming guitars reveal themselves through the reverie. ‘Pacific’ is the punchiest cut, John McEntire (he of Tortoise and the album’s producer) hammers out a sea-chopping rhythm with Prekop’s delicate vocals almost drowning in amidst the cymbal crashes and keyboard oscillations. The title track closes the album on a marginally more sombre yet no less quixotic vibe with backwards guitar adornments and Prekop’s most sleepy vocal yet.

The Sea & Cake could have been in danger of becoming an indie-band-by-numbers, but ‘Runner’ is performed with all the vigour and aplomb of fresh-faced youngsters and executed with the deftness of touch of grizzled old hands.