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Review: Death Cab For Cutie Brilliant On New, Lighter Record ‘Codes and Keys’

Codes and Keys

Very rarely does a band’s style and sound get so ingrained with fans expectations of the output that the band, that the emotional prowess of the songwriting, becomes the calling card. Death Cab for Cutie has legions of obsessive fans that live and die through principle songwriter Ben Gibbard’s music so much, that there were doubts cast when he got married, and moved to sunny L.A. vs. staying in melodramatic Seattle where he grew up. People thought the music would suffer, they thought the droning absolution to miserable artistic solitude would be forever gone with his new lease on life. The results, thankfully are not what was expected. They’re exceeded, largely.

People quote him, they continually get Death Cab lyrics tattooed, they end up on artistic street signs and as a harbinger of emotional respite that extremely few are brave enough to face head on. Death Cab’s music is a virtual road map of heartbreak, loneliness, desperate feelings and shadows that lurk within.

Death Cab's Leader Ben Gibbard

On their new record, “Codes and Keys” Death Cab have reached a place musically that is much different from their later, and less…happy sounding records. “Codes and Keys” is a brilliant, warm record that features a copious amounts of layers, and musical ideas that harken to radiohead, or Gibbard’s other one time project Postal Service. The songs are lush, the drums have crystal clear resonance, and Gibbard, once the troubadour to the broken heart, actually sounds thrilled to be alive, and so clearly in love with his wife. “Some Boys” features a throbbing bass line that delivers a crushing punch, while the haunting vocals seem like far off chants. Everything is in its right place on “Codes and Keys.” The riffs are sleek and beautifully crafted in the genius of Beatles-eqsue madness seen around the “Revolver” time period.

“You are a Tourist,” the album’s first single, is a veritable preceptor of what the feeling behind “Codes and Keys” is, it’s a deep, meaningful joyride with plenty of attractions that aren’t just mired in typical, but effective sadness that Death Cab has become so pigeonholed into. Sonically, the album moves with fearless musical scope. The acres of music happening underneath the simple melody of the songs creates a visual piece of music that soaks in the listener. The movements are serene, and the usually sad sack Gibbard acts as an adviser instead of emotional punching bag he’s been so many times over on the prior Death Cab records. The effective output, is enthralling, and is to date the best feeling record in the Death Cab cannon, not the best overall, but could undoubtedly stand on its own against the time tested favorites of those obsessive, mouth frothing, broken hearted fans.

There is no “ Follow you into the Dark” on this record, which is brilliant, because it’s not needed. There are no gray clouds hanging over anyone’s head, and for excellent reasons: the band of lovable misanthropes is finally settled into their own skin, and the songs have never been better, and have never shown brighter because of it.

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2 Legacy Comments

  • Comment by Keith Keresey posted June 01, 2011 at 21:11

    Great review Bobby! I am really enjoying this album.. there’s just so much going on and it’s got a great feel!

  • Comment by Nick Rodriguez posted June 02, 2011 at 18:30

    awesome review, now I have to check this out.