While Someone Else's Cake is only the third album in as many years from Seattle quartet Red Jacket Mine, they already sound like they've been on the block for quite some time. Maybe it's songwriter Lincoln Barr's old soul lyrics, which manage to be intricate, smart, and casual at the same time, or maybe it's their breezy sound, built on a foundation of slick '70s pop influences but branching out into more updated styles almost accidentally. More likely, it's the masterful assembly of all these influences, motivations, and intentions into a streamlined final product that sounds so cool and self-assured there's no chance it was made by some bunch of new kids. Starting with the peppy album-opener "Amy," Red Jacket Mine dip deep into their bag of tricks for a hook-heavy three-minute blast of power pop with dabs of Elvis Costello-style organ, the lighthearted storytelling voice of Squeeze, and the summery instrumentation of Nick Lowe's most upbeat tunes. Tracks like "Nickel & Dime" and "Skint City" tap into the world-weary-but-grinning perspective of Warren Zevon, or even more so, Steely Dan's plastic bohemian sheen. The bleaty horn section and crunchy glam boogie guitar shuffle on "Engineer" all but quote "Bang a Gong" without rewriting the song. Much like 2010s contemporaries Ted Leo and Spoon, Red Jacket Mine marry their vast playlist of influences to their own songwriting approach, coming off not as plagiarists, but more as enormous music nerds who actually have something to add to their jumping-off points. This is evidenced by the over the top traditional country number "Have You Got a Permit to Preach on this Corner?," a track that sounds like something the Byrds left on the cutting room floor circa Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The track offers a break from the pop and highlights how deeply the band considered the songwriting, consistency, and flow of the album. Drawing on the past but building something new from the components, Someone Else's Cake ends up being as developed, thoughtful, and satisfying as it seems at first glance. For a band not too many years into it, Red Jacket Mine have funneled a lifetime's worth of spring afternoons listening to records into 11 cleanly polished and highly varied slices of pop music magic.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas