I stumbled on the Sea and Cake one afternoon several years ago when NPR did a review of "One Bedroom" and played snippets from it on "All Things Considered". It was a very fortunate thing I caught that review or otherwise I still may have not heard of one of America's best bands, hands down. I started with "Oui", still their greatest album, and quickly caught up. Some older fans prefer the rawer stuff from the self-named debut and "The Biz", where the music was good enough but Sam Prekop had yet to adopt his whispering vocal style. To briefly describe the Sea and Cake sound is a bit difficult, because while they might remind one of other groups, it's fleeting at best. About the closest I can come is to appeal to the folks who like the most ethereal moments of Pink Floyd and a hint of Steely Dan, along with electronica as a buoyant addition to the incredibly tasteful and catchy guitars. The Sea and Cake have a huge pedigree, and somehow have succeeded in making their sound accessible, dreamy and ethereal. So those familiar with "Oui" and "One Bedroom", which is pretty close to its predecessor, will be a bit surprised to find that "Runner" is the most rocking album the Sea and Cake have done to date. This will not be too surprising for those who own "Car Alarm", the last full length CD, as it gave notice to where their next sounds were headed. "Moonlight Butterfly" followed, a 32 minute EP that delves into electronica more than any previous album, and "Runner" joins as its companion piece. The EP could easily be included on "Runner". It opens up actually rocking, but Prekop never lets his lilting whisper get out of control, although the guitars this time around rock more and indulge in some rock lead work. But "Runner" is still very much a Sea and Cake outing, as it also goes farther into the electronic realm, and has plenty of those soft tunes to satisfy those who love their jazzy touch on the mellower stuff. Even the album title track is mainly an acoustic guitar, something else they haven't really worked with, but it works just fine. I typically don't break down albums track by track because I like the format of several tunes creating one unique whole. "Runner" is indeed something that is best heard as a complete piece, and takes us into the ethereal like no other band out there. This is the kind of stuff, as I pointed out on my "Oui" review, that sounds best as the listener perhaps is trekking through a lonely stretch of road in the middle of the night with nothing but stars and meteors to keep him company. The Sea and Cake add to that feel, making us almost wishing we could lift off into the heavens and the mysteries of the universe, with this music to play on the way.