Mike A. Bryan, A&E Editor
Death Cab for Cutie has a formula and it works. From album to album, they have managed to maintain a uniquely lovely and melancholy sound; that is, until the release of “Kintsugi,” their latest album. This album saw the departure of the founding guitarist and producer, Chris Walla, and the music reflects this massive change. The album is not bad, it is just not on the same level as the others, as evidenced by the 6.0 out of 10 score by venerable music reviewer Pitchfork. Considering the band has been together for over 20 years, one lame album is not bad. With the lineup change, two touring members officially joined the band, and helped usher a return to the band’s earlier sound.
“Thank You for Today” is everything a Death Cab fan could want. It has their signature sound, presented in a variety of pleasing forms, with plenty of sing-along melodies and catchy hooks. After all, Ben Gibbard, founder, lead singer and songwriter, is still the driving force behind the band. The album is definitely radio-friendly with a number of possible radio hits, especially “Gold Rush” and “I Dreamt We Spoke Again.” It is reminiscent of one of their most well-known albums, “Transatlanticism,” in its variety and approachability. “Transatlanticism,” perhaps their best, turned 15 this year, making this new album’s sound even more appropriate and timely.
The songs on this album focus on the past, sometimes presenting beautiful things in a sad way, other times giving the listener sad things in a beautiful way. On the opener, “I Dreamt We Spoke Again,” Gibbard channels The Postal Service for a sparse drum beat with smooth keys and emotional lyrics that has a radio-friendly chorus. “Summer Years” is reminiscent of early Death Cab, but the third track, “Gold Rush,” is one of the standouts on the whole album; it will likely get radio play in major markets.
Variety is the spice of life, Gibbard and the crew change it up with “Your Hurricane,” again reminiscent of early Death Cab. “When We Drive” might also be influenced by Gibbard’s work with The Postal Service but has more depth. The next track, “Autumn Love,” much like “Gold Rush,” is definitely meant for the radio. Turning up the energy on “Northern Lights,” the track has an earnestness that makes listeners want to dance. “You Moved Away” is classic Death Cab, expressing a familiar yearning and longing that is quite beautiful in its own way. Once again, the band changes up the tempo with “Near/Far,” giving listeners another danceable track. The last track, “60 & Punk”, has the wonderful melancholy that Death Cab for Cutie is known for, and makes for a fitting end to the album.
Death Cab for Cutie’s lo-fi, downtempo approach to emo rock is notable, and has influenced countless other artists and projects. The new album stays true to their original sound and is worth a listen. Let their beautiful melancholy wrap you up and take you on a sonic journey.