Photograph by Danny Clinch

When Death Cab for Cutie released their first single from Codes and Keys, ‘You Are a Tourist’, I wasn’t very into it. It sounded like a hit single with its melody and lyrics written for a third grade school choir, but I was worried that it would be a case of releasing the best song first, much like the Strokes earlier this year with ‘Under Cover of Darkness’. While it may be the lead single, it is also the weakest song on the record. A week or so later Death Cab released ‘Some Boys’, and all my worries disappeared.

Codes and Keys finds Death Cab exploring new territory with electronic sounds, using Ben Gibbard’s voice as an instrument, almost reminiscent of Animal Collective’s most radio-friendly track ‘Fireworks’. When I first heard ‘Some Boys’, I instantly thought of ‘Fireworks’, and sat amazed that this sound fit Death Cab for Cutie so well. Opening track ‘Home Is a Fire’ dips its toes quite far into the electronic sound, almost sounding like a Postal Service b-side. The precise picking and rapid scattering drum beat can sound at times electronic, yet still organic enough to question whether or not it is.

Codes and Keys is probably Death Cab’s biggest change in sound from one album to another, both lyrically and musically. Narrow Stairs was a very raw and at times depressing record. Codes and Keys has a very studio-centric sound to most of its tracks, and lyrically may be Death Cab’s happiest and most charming record. Narrow Stairs left listeners with a tear jerking break up song, while Codes and Keys‘ closer leaves you wanting and happy to be in love.

Death Cab for Cutie are at a strange place in their career following their first number one record. Each record they put out in this stage of their career will always make early followers of the band ask if they are still relevant. It’s asking myself this where I realized that it doesn’t matter. I don’t expect them to put out a masterpiece by any means anymore, they are a pop band, and their new record demonstrates their ability to continue to create wonderfully melodic and jangly guitar pop songs they have come to be known for.

Death Cab for Cutie – You Are a Tourist
Death Cab for Cutie – Some Boys

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— , July 13, 2011    Comments Off on Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keys
Photograph by Pamela Littky

Photograph by Pamela Littky

I got into Tegan and Sara fairly late, knowing them only for their songs ‘Monday Monday Monday’ and ‘Walking With a Ghost’, but never really delving deeper than that. That changed when I first heard The Con late last year. Since I began listening to that album entirely too often, I have anxiously awaited their next record. On October 27, that follow-up will arrive. Sainthood takes its name from a Leonard Cohen song and marks their sixth full-length album. Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla and Jason McGerr return as producer and drummer, respectively.

Sainthood didn’t make much of an impression on me upon first listen, at least until the closing track. With the prominent synth melody and hopeful gazing to the future, ‘Someday’ is basically a perfect Mates of State song. It sticks out on an album that for the most part is still classic Tegan and Sara. Subsequent listens reveal an album just as enjoyable as its predecessors. Sainthood shares much with The Con, but with a slightly harder edge and more focus on the electronic rather than the acoustic. Thematically, Sainthood is said to be about “obsession with romantic ideals.” Many songs come across as pleas from jilted lovers and laments of unrequited love. Lead single ‘Hell’ has garnered some criticism for sounding “too mainstream,” which in other words means ridiculously catchy. The main chorus line of “I know you feel it too” is so simple yet so memorable. It’s refreshing to have a song so driving and direct to get me out of my mopey dream pop funk.

Tegan and Sara – Someday
Tegan and Sara – Hell
Tegan and Sara – Arrow

Continue Reading ‘Sainthood’ Album Review »

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— , October 23, 2009    1 Comment

Death Cab for Cutie

April 5, 2009, Toronto, Canada – After missing out on their headlining show on Toronto Island last summer to watch the Evil Dead musical instead, I decided that if I was ever going to see Death Cab for Cutie, it might as well be now.

Coming into the show, I heard that Sound Academy was basically the worst venue in the city for numerous reasons. While the sound wasn’t as bad as I’ve heard, all complaints about location are completely valid. It truly is located in the middle of nowhere; without a ride I would’ve been pretty screwed for getting there. I was really taken aback at how cavernous it was, hardly a comparison to the intimate venues I’m used to frequenting, and hardly the crowd I’m used to. Many jokes were made about the 14-year old girl content of the crowd.

I probably wouldn’t have made the trip if Ra Ra Riot wasn’t opening. I’ve had The Rhumb Line on repeat for the last few months, one of the most overlooked albums of 2008 in my opinion. The  band seemed a little nervous to be playing in front of a crowd that size, but they performed admirably in an all-too-brief set. Cellist Alexandra Lawn’s vocals on ‘Too Too Too Fast’ were sadly drowned out by the rest of the band, somewhat spoiling my favourite song off the album. Still, I’d jump at the chance to see them at a smaller venue. They showed some great energy.

I didn’t care for Cold War Kids. Prior to the show my only exposure was the song ‘We Used to Vacation’, which I didn’t mind, and which didn’t get played. Their performance didn’t impress me at all. It was very classic rock-influenced, and the music was fine, if a little bland, but what got me were the vocals. I really couldn’t stand their singer. If I had any chance of getting to the merch table and back during their set, I probably would’ve done that, but instead I sipped my Moosehead and quietly waited for them to finish.

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— , April 17, 2009    10 Comments

Born Ruffians

The year’s not over yet, but now is as good a time as any to look back on the past 12 11 months of music and highlight the stuff that shone the brightest for me this year. After a huge star-power filled 2007 that brought out releases from some of my favourite bands like Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Spoon, and Interpol, 2008 was largely a blank slate for me. Outside of the new Death Cab for Cutie album, I wasn’t particularly anticipating anything, so the void was filled with a variety of releases from bands both new and old I discovered throughout the year. Mind you, I’ve likely missed out on a lot so far, so consider this list fairly fluid. Without further ado, the best of what I’ve heard in ’08.

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— , December 2, 2008    4 Comments

Death Cab for Cutie

The first single from Death Cab for Cutie’s forthcoming album Narrow Stairs has made its debut. Clocking in at 8:35, it’s much longer than the typical Death Cab song. ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’ has an intro that lasts just long enough to trick you into thinking it’s an instrumental, but the voice of Ben Gibbard soon chimes in with his familiar brand of lyrics. But is that something sinister I hear this time around? Clearly that intro will be cut in the radio edit, but it makes me eager to see what direction the rest of the album is taking.

Stream it at the Hype Machine: Death Cab For Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart

Narrow Stairs is out May 13 on Atlantic Records, which makes it a great after-birthday gift for me.

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— , March 19, 2008    Comments Off on New Death Cab Single: I Will Possess Your Heart