In the long and storied history of rock, there is no band more contentious than Steely Dan. A band so powerful in sound that listeners can never just be "okay" with them. With Steely Dan, emotions flow in two polar opposite directions. There is a steady appreciation for the band, a relaxed understanding of their layered decadence and finely tuned musical chops. They are rock gods, whose technical flaunting came not in wailing solos, but instead arrived gradually through rich songs that perfectly symbolized the excess and sin of '70s America. Then there is the seething hatred that bubbles like a cauldron for a band that represents everything that can possibly go wrong with music. The smug self-indulgence that permeates Steely Dan's music has been the cause of endless vitriolic rants, citing them as the band that sparked a thousand poor imitations, birthed yacht rock, and whose records solely existed to cut lines on your parents' coffee table. Those are the options: You either love or hate Steely Dan.
That being said, the Sea and Cake are Steely Dan. At least they are for the indie set. Except, unlike the Dan, the Sea and Cake are universally adored by all. It's a nice change of pace, seeing as that the Sea and Cake channel the same mid-tempo lounging smoothness of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, without the lingering guilt of doing a line of audio coke. The two bands share a greater appreciation with maturity—with neither resonating well in the teenage years, but as your 20s disintegrate, you automatically develop a new appreciation for a fuller musical sound, a more refined taste compared to that swill you loved as a kid.
Keeping with the theme, Everybody, the latest from the Sea and Cake, is the band's Aja, if you will. A slight departure from their earlier sound, Everybody finds a healthy, well-rested band, fresh off a four-year delay, producing a rather straightforward rock record. Not "rock" in terms of solos or volume, instead the atmosphere is less subdued, with a guitar sound that's robust, yet always restrained. The Sea and Cake is now conscious, wide eyed, and awake after a career of soundtracking listeners' dreams. The reason behind this might be producer Brian Paulson—the first fresh set of ears behind the knobs in their 14-year history—who allows the band to chill the fuck out some, sounding infinitely less uptight than 2003's One Bedroom.
You need not look far for the Dan influence on Everybody's "Introducing," which has a white-funk intro that is a dead ringer for Katy Lied's hit "Black Friday." But just before you shudder at the similarities, the song drifts from cover territory to sharing only a similar rhythmic setup and structure. Throughout Everybody, vocalist Sam Prekop remains the epitome of cool as he avoids flexing vocal range in exchange for maintaining that confident croon which still sounds as timeless as ever. Prekop's permanent chill is a perfect fit for a band that has always been too talented, and too cool, for their peers. With Everybody, the Sea and Cake finally understand their place, even if they are just filling in for the world's most hated—and sometimes, loved—band.