The Sea and Cake 

Car Alarm

Car Alarm is the eighth album by Chicago's the Sea and Cake, and while no new vistas are broached, this combo continues to refine its comparatively unique sound for the better.

The opener, "Aerial," and the title song are grabbers, sharing qualities with the Flamin' Groovies' mid-1970s power-pop classic Shake Some Action — a solid beat; lean, jangling guitars; brooding singing; and tantalizing pop dynamics that build gradually, threatening to explode. The reflective, mid-tempo "Pages" has a willowy, sultry melody with subtly alluring Latin jazz-tinged guitar hooks soothingly and gauzy, purr-like vocals the tasty, not-too-sweet icing on the cake. It's easy to imagine the suavely vivacious "On a Letter" covered by Bebel Gilberto or Sade, and the svelte "Weekend," with its twittering electronics and undulating drums, evokes the Sea and Cake's UK fellow travelers Stereolab interpreting an early Chic disco hit.

While so many performers bend over backwards to "dazzle" listeners, Car Alarm is self-assured without being smug, comforting without being maudlin. (Thrill Jockey)

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