Death Cab For Cutie

Codes & Keys

Written by: TL on 08/06/2011 23:32:45

After fourteen years and six previous LP's, Washington quartet Death Cab For Cutie has treated those in the know to gentle indie/alternative rock of admirable consistency, with little to no surrouding drama to speak. It makes for a somewhat dull introduction, but Death Cab's career appears an impressively steady climb, and so this year it has become time for their seventh full length, this time titled "Codes & Keys".

Prior to the album's release, main man Benjamin Gibbard had revealed that the band would be more focused on piano than the previous opus "Narrow Stairs", and although that record was awesome, I got stoked hoping that "Codes & Keys" would be similar to the 2005 record "Plans", which initially got me into the band. That is not entirely the case however, as this new album appears quite a bit more playful and experimental. Where "Plans" featured piano melodies that created melodies which gently lead the songs into and through each song, "Codes & Keys" is a more floaty, layered type of listen, during which you can feel your attention skip from detail to detail, rather than follow a more coherent dramatic progression.

In my humble opinion, this takes a little of the Death Cab magic away. I much appreciate the band challenging itself and making new ideas work on new albums, but in this case, I feel like it has cost them ever so slightly in the department of engaging the listener emotionally. The songs simply seem a bit more for the head than for the mind, which is definitely a change from the firm grasp "Plans" and "Narrow Stairs" managed to hold on your most vital of organs.

That being said, the detriment I thus perceive is only ever so slight, and Death Cab still sounds like a band that's too classy to ever make a dull album. There are still at least a handful of songs strong enough for your mind to recognize instantly, and catchy enough to prompt you to sing or hum along to various parts. Most evidently I find the up-tempo "Doors Unlocked And Open", on which a hypnotic bass really compliments Gibbard's soft vocals well, but other numbers also stand out, "Some Boys", "St. Peter's Cathedral" and "You Are A Tourist", just to name a few.

In the end, it's really hard to elaborate any reasons for not grading "Codes & Keys" as yet another top-tier record from the hands of Death Cab. It has the originality, the versatility, the class and most importantly, the memorability. To me though, it really does seem to lack one crucial thing, and that's the strong feeling a listener should get from it, of being enganged and touched emotionally. For that, it occurs to me, the light-weight experimentation creates a little too much distance, switching the listener on and off somewhat, rather than lighting you up and keeping you that way to the end.

Download: Doors Unlocked And Open, You Are A Tourist, St. Peter's Cathedral, Some Boys
For The Fans Of: The National, Elbow, Bright Eyes, Arcade Fire

Release Date 31.05.2011
Atlantic Records

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