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


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