The Sea and Cake One Bedroom

It's Sam Prekop's fault, but it would be a great surprise if a new record by delicate Chicago popsters the Sea and Cake did not sound exactly like you think it will. Prekop's distinct whisper-soft vocals are what gives the band its sound, and despite greater exploration in rhythm programming by drummer and engineer John McEntire, that signature remains. The band membership has had some time apart - McEntire is always busy with Tortoise and a slew of production projects, guitarist Archer Prewitt released his third excellent solo album last year, bassist Eric Claridge is recording solo and is a successful visual artist, and Prekop himself dipped his toe in solo waters a few years ago - but the chemistry and group dynamic remains. The band has also slowed from their initial creative burst - they released three albums in their first three years - but it's been a three-year wait for this sixth album. Time off, it seems, has not exactly expanded their palette or ambitions; One Bedroom could consist entirely of outtakes from sessions for 1997's The Fawn and few would notice. Elegance never goes out of style, of course, but One Bedroom is unlikely to convince the unconverted. (Thrill Jockey)