Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It’s out there: Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keys

So this is the new and exuberant Death Cab for Cutie? Sounds much like the unhappy and downtrodden Death Cab to my ears (apart from the high on crack joy of Stay Young, Go Dancing). As such, I’m not going to review the album now because having listened to it a few times, I feel like there are some beautiful gems here but it is an album that will take a few more listens to wrap my head around.

As a relative newcomer to the charms of Death Cab, I think my unfamiliarity with their earlier albums makes me hesitant to pass judgement on where it sits in the pantheon of their records. However, Death Cab’s last album Narrow Stairs was widely acknowledged as their most miserable but it had a sonic density and immediacy that gripped you from the first listen. Codes and Keys is much less immediate and while the songs seem to breathe more than the claustrophobic grasp of the previous album, there are fewer songs that stand out. Sure, You are a Tourist and Underneath the Sycamore have the sugar rush of Death Cab’s best singles but the joy for me has always been in the darker album cuts which seem slightly muted here. Again, I think familiarity will bring make it better.

On first listen, St. Peter's Cathedral and Unobstructed Views have a stately grandeur and the title track sounds like a sped up version of Band of Horses’ Factory (which, strangely enough, I wrote about earlier in the week). The aforementioned Stay Young, Go Dancing is an unashamedly heart on sleeve profession of love for life and I presume Zooey Deschanel. When Gibbard croons “When she sings, I hear symphonies” it makes me wish I enjoyed She & Him half that much.

This is a pretty solid record but I’m going to reserve full judgement until I’ve had more time to enjoy it. The album is streaming on NPR.


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