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Death Cab For Cutie - You Are A Tourist
May 26, 2011
Total plays:
142 times
Why do we like this?
Death Cab For Cutie captured the hearts of hundred of thousands as the northwest's premier indie act over the past decade. But even the most loyal fans here are as guarded and critical -- even hypercritical -- of new work as they would be of any new band, especially since they largely represent the northwest's musical aesthetic to the rest of the world. Lucky for us, then, when Death Cab announced they were showcasing their new album Codes and Keys weeks before its release at a last-minute Seattle show. Working through pre-tour glitches, Death Cab performed over two hours of material, new and old, and Seattle collectively swooned.

Codes and Keys is an album themed around evolving a sense of home (hello City of Angles, goodbye weather like an IV). Clocking in 11 songs at 45 minutes, the album's songs are built on joyous sentiments of earlier albums, with the steady hand of Alan Moulder (Depeche Mode, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride, My Bloody Valentine) carving out something indelibly new in between. Moulder gives the sound something Death Cab always lacked: the sum becomes greater than its parts. Chris Walla and gang were brilliant to bring him in.

Although there's a refreshed and decidedly life-affirming tone throughout, Gibbard's lyrics won't alienate die-hards with saccharine marital bliss. In "Monday Morning," he sings "I cry out loud / keep your arms around me / I am a bird that's in need of grounding / I'm built to fly away / I never learned how to stay "¦Night is gonna fall and the vultures will surround you." His inflection is purposeful and steady, not cutesy or precious.

A few tracks break out new compositions -- "Doors Unlocked And Open" begins with a dynamic guitar melody that sustains throughout the entire song, shaking off somber piano chords longer than I would expect Death Cab to ever have. "Some Boys" starts with a breathy sample paired with an ominous pulsing synth. Again, so much more interesting than any straight piano chord. This album reveals a Death Cab for Cutie sprinkled with a new producer, some sunshine, and a dose of uprooting sounds both complex and brooding.

Codes and Keys has a little something for everyone, from original fans looking for "Death Cab: the agonizing romantics" to newer fans (like myself) hoping the indie stalwarts coyly tiptoe into synth pop. Each song is cunningly buoyed between moods, not to be pinned as the "pop" track, or the "sad Seattle" track. Even the singles, "Home Is A Fire" and the most familiarly melancholic, "You Are A Tourist," run to a charged electro beat. Although half the album was released in advance of its official May 31 date, Codes and Keys is worth biting into as a whole.
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