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coverpic flag US - Illinois - Full Moon 105 - 04/24/05

Sam Prekop
Who's Your New Professor
Thrill Jockey

Let me tell you about me and Sam Prekop. My ears were introduced to his breath and resonance about five years ago when I developed an unhealthy obsession with the Sea and Cake's back catalogue. Each album seemed to invite a new and faintly unique perspective on how to write sublime, beautiful jazz-pop. Some electronics here, a little salsa rhythm there, but the core of the music was the same: Sam's voice and solid songwriting.

But I don't return to a particular Sea and Cake album on a regular basis. True, I love to listen to the Sea and Cake, choosing The Biz when I want short tunes with more focus on guitar work, Oui when I want something really summery and light, or Nassau when I want to hear their most outstanding songs. Sam Prekop's debut, however, is another matter. I often turn to it when I think I want to listen to the Sea and Cake, and then I realise that Sam Prekop is better than any of the individual albums.

Sam Prekop is a perfect album. The ebb and flow of the instrumentation - lovingly handled by Jim O'Rourke - is impossibly wonderful. It's jazzy without being too jazz; light without being insubstantial; intimate without being self-conscious. I love it. It's an album that sounds fresh and unique every time. The nuance of the sound is breathtaking.

And now, five years on, we have Sam Prekop's second solo album. And it's basically halfway between a Sea and Cake record and Sam's debut. It's disappointing. I set up my listening experience to be as conducive as possible to drifting away in a Sam Prekop-induced reverie. But the sun, the trees and the lawn didn't help. What's wrong with this?

It's not that it's bad. By no means. It's just that it's not as good as the debut, nor as strong as the Sea and Cake. It's perhaps on par with the last Sea and Cake album, One Bedroom, which seriously sagged in the second half and bizarrely included a cover of Bowie's "Sound and Vision". Who's Your New Professor could have trimmed a couple of its weaker tracks. It's missing Eric Claridge's sublime bass playing. It's missing that special something.

Perhaps my expectations are too high. Or perhaps this just isn't so hot. Either way, if you're going to buy a Sam Prekop album, get his debut - you'll never regret it.

Copyright © 2005 Tim Clarke e-mail address

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