Who's Your New Professor
To many, absence makes the heart grow fonder. However, to Sam Prekop followers, absence has caused a rabid eagerness normally reserved for only the most severe sort of fan. During the five years that have passed since the last (and first) Sam Prekop solo album, Prekop (who is the leader of The Sea and Cake) has kept plenty busy, releasing two full-length Sea and Cake albums, one EP, and becoming a well-known, well- shown, established painter and photographer. Finally, five years later, Prekop is back with the same band that helped make his solo debut one of the most beloved records of the past ten years, and has created another masterpiece of breezy, crisp offbeat pop perfection in his new album, Who's Your New Professor.
Prekop set out to make a record that was completely different from both his previous solo album and his Sea and Cake material, and he succeeded fantastically. Prekop used a variety of unconventional guitar tunings and actively stepped away from familiar vocal and rhythmic patterns. He goes on to explain: "I was consciously trying to get away from the Brazilian influence. It did seep in occasionally, but I was careful to approach the record differently. This time around there seems to be a curious blues quality to many of the pieces which has never happened before." Like the previous record, the songs on Who's Your New Professor were created in Prekop's Chicago apartment, and were then taken to John McEntire's (Tortoise, The Sea and Cake) Soma Studio in Chicago. The band of Josh Abrams (bass - Town & Country, Sticks & Stones, The Roots), Archer Prewitt (guitar - The Sea and Cake, Sof' Boy), Chad Taylor (drums - Chicago Underground, Sticks & Stones), and Rob Mazurek (cornet ? Chicago Underground, Isotope 217) was reassembled, and the recording began. To create the songs in the studio setting, Prekop adopted a new approach. As he explains: "I usually write the music before really considering what the vocals will do; for this record much of the music was written in a sense to support the vocals. This approach is pretty different from how I usually work. I was also hoping to achieve a fairly unadorned, lean quality, keeping overdubs to a minimum and focus clearly on the group interaction, also to maximize the qualities that can only happen when a band records live as a band together in a room."
The results speak for themselves. The twelve songs that make up Who's Your New Professor are among the best that Prekop has ever recorded, from Shrimp Boat (of which he was also the leader) to The Sea and Cake. The opening track, "Something," is, at first listen, a catchy, pristine pop song. However, close listening reveals something typical for this album: elaborate layers, exotic arrangements, and a gently subtle complexity that is infinitely rewarding. Prekop elaborates on this by noting that ""Something" utilizes an ebb and flow arrangement where elements arrive, never to return. The space also shifts and mutates in a very literal sense as the song progresses. The drums end up in an entirely new space by the end of the track as Rob's cornet arrives. "Chicago People," the fifth track, is another charming example of Prekop's ability to pen a perfect pop song, but one that is very distinctly his own; "a miniature suite of movements, effectively avoiding the verse-chorus structure."
Like many of his Thrill Jockey label-mates, singer-songwriter Sam Prekop is a man of diverse and impressive talents. During the past decade, Prekop has made a name for himself in the art world that is nearly as prominent as it is in the music world. His paintings have been shown at the Clementine Gallery in New York, the MCA in Houston, the Pompidou Center in Paris, the Modern Institute in Glasgow, and many others. His work, like his songs, often involves elaborately distinct non-repeating tessellations; they may appear to be linear, but a closer look reveals minute patterns and completely unique structures, tones, and moods.