It was nearly the end of the line for top U.S. Secret Agent John Smith. He had come to Seoul with the hope of establishing communication among a group of North Korean black-market plutonium smugglers, but had thus far only made contact with the cold stone of an underground prison lair, his cover betrayed by a young Korean businessman.
Though he was blindfolded and drugged nearly beyond consciousness he was still wary of the approaching sound of heel-toe-heel-toe, and braced himself for another round of torture. As he knelt down expecting a blow to fall upon him at any moment, he was shocked to feel the ropes that tied his hands and arms being loosened instead. He was helped to his feet, and held steadfast by two large armed guards, as a colorfully decorated man in a uniform approached him. From behind his back the man retrieved a compact-disc player. "Does this," the man asked in fluent English, "belong to you?"
Agent Smith was suddenly reminded that he had brought his player on this mission in an effort to appear casual and blend in. Afraid to lie to the officer, he replied, "Yes, it does belong to me."
"What is the music inside?"
Agent Smith scrambled to remember, the album finally coming to him in a sigh of relief, "It is the newest album by the American band the Sea and Cake, entitled One Bedroom."
"I listened to it briefly upon your arrival," Smith's captor said. "I was very impressed. Tell me more about it."
Agent Smith, seeing an opportunity that might eventually aid him in departing the prison, decided to cooperate. "The album begins with the tracks 'Four Corners' and 'Left Side Clouded,' an excellent introduction and summation of the band's entire catalogue. All the elements are there: rolling Krautrock rhythm, synthesizers punctuating the outlying areas behind noodling guitar-work and Eric Claridge's prevalent bass-line, and finally Sam Prekop's light and lazy voice rattling off nearly nonsensical phrases. The next two tracks, 'Hotel Tell' and 'Le Baron,' offer a stripped-down sound, beginning each track with driving percussion, a light smattering of electronic bleeps, and Prekop's voice, only altering the formula with a heavy beat and faux-string programs."
"I noticed that songs five and eight," the officer commented, "feature a slight feedback introduction before being propelled into passages that sound rather similar to the rest of the album. Why did the artists choose to tease the listeners with an interesting new direction within the confines of their rather limited sound if they were only going to return to the same formula?"
"That is an excellent and surprising observation for you to make, considering you supposedly have so little exposure to American culture," Smith said. "But, yes, it's true, 'Shoulder Length' and 'Mr. F' do start out with the promise of something different, only to fall back on the same rote process. The title track can be accused of the same type of monotony, but these lapses can be excused, given the inventive touches found on 'Interiors' and 'Try Nothing.' The former of the two tracks introduces an interesting slur on the guitar intro, before placing Prekop's vocal very prominently into the mix, a self-harmony quickly catching up to him before the song erupts as much as it's capable of erupting into a noisy outro that serves to highlight the quiet beauty of the initial portion of the song. 'Try Nothing' creates an ambient-folk feel that is only pervaded by a sparse piano similar to something the late Harry Nilsson would have played. Beautiful."
"Ah, yes. I remember that song. It led perfectly into the only part on the album I recognized," the officer said, breaking into a smile, the first sign of happiness he had displayed since entering the cell.
Agent Smith chuckled, "It is ironic that one of the best songs on the album should be a cover, specifically David Bowie's 'Sound & Vision.' Though they are very true to the original song, even bringing in the brothers baritone, the Navins of the Aluminum Group, for the crooning portions of the song, the trademark sound of the Sea and Cake is still retained. The song, like the rest of the album, seems effortless, performed by musicians completely comfortable with the studio, their instruments, and each other. In fact, the same could ultimately be said for the entire album. One Bedroom does tend to lag in parts, perhaps lost in the legacy of the band that created it, but in the end it comes off as an unified organic being, both necessary and pleasant."
"Thank you for your knowledgeable discussion of this enjoyable music," the officer remarked, after a brief contemplative pause.
The tension was thick, as Agent Smith wondered if the officer, pleased with his comments, was about to set him free. With this in mind, Smith calmly waited for the other man to initiate conversation.
"In light of your introducing me to this music, I have decided to make a concession to your stay here." The officer paused before continuing, and Agent Smith gasped in anticipation.
"You will now receive two meals a day instead of the usual one," the officer said. "Thank you, and good day."
Agent Smith was then thrown to the floor. His cell door was locked, and as the officer and his thugs walked away, he thought, "Damn! If only I had brought one of the Sea and Cake's earlier albums, such as The Fawn, or even The Sea and Cake. I might have won my freedom."