Jai Alai: Drive Safe

Jai Alai
Drive Safe
(Sun Sea Sky)

Wow! It’s great that, in this time of largely unsurprising and uninspiring music, an album can still come along and, well, surprise and inspire. I’d never heard of Jai Alai, but I instantly fell for Drive Safe. Apparently, Jai Alai is from New Orleans, but they sound so much like the Sea and Cake that I had to scan the Internet for any links to the likes of John McEntire or Thrill Jockey Records. (I didn’t find any, but if I were to learn that Sam Prekop entered the Witness Protection Program I would not be a bit surprised.) However, this is not meant to be anything but a ringing endorsement: the world needs more good music, not less, and these guys have the chops to sit among the best of the postrockers. From the opener “Radio,” lean and clean guitar lines dance with a sure-footed bass to the polyrhythmic drums, but this isn’t merely a jazzfest. Now and again the vibe is offset by some modern technology, such as the synth in “Real Job” or the Vocoder on “Brut and Hairspray at a Summer Camp Dance,” and this gives the proceedings a bit more of a rough-around-the-edges feel than some of the pristine tracks by their Chicago forebears. And hey, they know their history, playfully working the melody of Francis Lai’s “A Man and a Woman” into one of the breaks in “With the Windows Down.” For a band named after such a wickedly fast sport, Jai Alai has a light touch perfect for summer evenings. Buy it.