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Alternative & Indie - Released May 27, 2011 | Atlantic Records

Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks
Props to Zooey Deschanel for finally cheering Ben Gibbard up. On Narrow Stairs, the Death Cab frontman sang songs like “You Could Do Better Than Me” and “Pity and Fear,” filling the album with the sort of articulate, hyper-literate gloominess you might expect from a depressed poetry major. Codes and Keys, released three years after Narrow Stairs and two years after his marriage to Deschanel, paints a brighter picture. Gone are the breakup ballads, the odes to lost love, the down-in-the-dumps sentiment that filled most of Death Cab’s earlier work. Instead, the album offers up a handful of odes to the sunny side of life. Gibbard alludes to his wife often, referencing her retro charm on “Morning Morning” (“She may be young but she only likes old things/And modern music, it ain’t to her tastes”) and laying out a plan for the rest of their married life with “Doors Unlocked and Open” (“We’ll live in slow motion and be free/with doors unlocked and open”). Beneath his vocals, more changes are taking place: a move away from guitar-based song arrangements, a stronger emphasis on keyboards, a willingness to explore the electro-acoustic link between Death Cab and the Postal Service, Gibbard’s most famous side-project. Codes and Keys still sounds like a Death Cab album, but the guys explore the benefits of the recording studio more than ever before, boosting Jason McGerr’s drums with bits of programmed percussion and scaling back their guitar riffs to sparse, articulate clumps of notes that ring out into the ether. There’s a new-found emphasis on open space, on electronics, on Kid A-inspired webs of feedback and distortion that are draped behind the songs like ambient backdrops. It’s not all machines and Eno-esque production -- a simple barroom piano opens up the title track, and “Stay Young, Go Dancing” (whose title would’ve seemed far out of place on any other Death Cab record) begins with an acoustic guitar -- but Codes and Keys certainly emphasizes the “studio” in “studio album,” focusing as much on the music’s presentation as its content. Luckily, there’s enough genuine melody at the core of these songs to warrant their arrangements. ~ Andrew Leahey
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 17, 2018 | Atlantic Records

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Death Cab For Cutie’s eighth album, Kintsugi, highlighted the band’s multiple fractures. Guitarist Chris Walla was leaving the project and Ben Gibbard’s marriage was collapsing. Two divisions that led to a negative and burdensome atmosphere for the group, and to an interesting but rather dark album as a result. Three years later, the sad times finally seem to be over. Thank You for Today offers more cheerful aspects and unites the long-time teammates: Ben Gibbard, Nick Harmer, Jason McGerr and two studio partners, Dave Depper and Zac Rae. Like for Kintsugi, the album is produced and mixed by the talented Rich Costey, known for his productions of Muse, Franz Ferdinand and Fiona Apple. A strong background that comes through on the very first listen.Death Cab For Cutie’s greyish phase truly seems over. Optimism is taking over for a quiet rebellion. With I Dreamt We Spoke Again, the band starts off with a game of distortions that covers Gibbard’s voice in a retro style. Then comes the track that best represents the band’s new mind-set. Gold Rush (somewhat reminiscent of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica) borrows its melodic line from Yoko Ono’s Mind Train. More pop, catchy and airy, Death Cab For Cutie are not breaking the elements like on Kintsugi. They rely on a thorough work of modelling and rebuilding from their own experiences and inspirations to reach this at once retro and contemporary rock atmosphere. © Anna Coluthe
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 6, 2019 | Atlantic Records

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Released just a year after the full-length Thank You for Today, 2019's The Blue EP finds Death Cab for Cutie benefitting from working with a smaller canvass. The central tune of this five-track EP is "Kids in 99," a song written in tribute to three children who died in an explosion on the Olympic Pipeline in 1999. It has clean lines but a nervy energy, and its hushed outrage provides an emotional keystone for the record, which also contains the coiled "Before the Bombs." Death Cab doesn't depart from the cool textures and subtle melodies that distinguish Thank You for Today, but that added grace note of despair, outrage, and quiet urgency does give The Blue EP a subtle and welcome emotional resonance. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 29, 2005 | Atlantic Records

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For your consideration: a wildly successful indie rock band with a legion of followers on an equally successful, highly credible independent label makes the jump to major-label powerhouse Atlantic, leading to much chagrin and speculation among its fans as they awaited with bated breath for what would happen to the group. The result was For Your Own Special Sweetheart, inarguably the most polished and fully realized album of Dischord alumnus Jawbox's career. Fast forward ten years and you find Barsuk's Death Cab for Cutie in the same position, making the same move. A new label, a larger crowd (thanks to their repeated appearances on The OC), and a side project of Ben Gibbard (Postal Service) that very well overshadowed the success of his main project. All of the moves were perfectly aligned to take the little band that could into the rock stratosphere. But the difference between Jawbox and Death Cab for Cutie was that For Your Own Special Sweetheart went on to be the finest release of Jawbox's canon. Plans definitely comes close to that mark, but falls slightly short. In comparison to the dry, raw production of Transatlanticism, Plans is warm and polished, the kind of album expected from a band obsessed with the sound of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Chris Walla does an amazing job bringing the group's sound in a different direction than before without compromising too many of the things that made the group sound great to begin with. Thematically, Plans is the Death Cab for Cutie suitable for graduate students, world-weary and wiser from their experiences, realizing they can no longer be love-starved 20-somethings without a clue yet hopelessly cursed to face the same issues. And there's merit to be had in acknowledging that maturity, for even blink-182 figured out their age and released their "serious" album. Gibbard's wispy, poetic lyrics (which could easily have been stolen from Aimee Mann's dressing room while she wasn't looking) still remain an artery from which the rest of the band beats and are some of his finest ever, but this time around the band aligns itself more with a series of emotional murmurs rather than a heart attack. The album winds its way from one ballad to the next, with brief stopovers at moderately up-tempo numbers to help break things up a bit. And it's this sense of resignation that either makes or breaks the album, depending on which Death Cab for Cutie is your favorite: the melancholic, hopeless romantic or the one who wears its heart on its sleeve with unbridled energy and passion. If Transatlanticism was Gibbard's Pet Sounds and Postal Service was SMiLE, then this is definitely Wild Honey, loved by adoring new fans and those who enjoy the ballads. But those hoping for a bit more -- for the bar to be raised higher -- might find this a mildly predictable exercise in Gibbard exorcising the demons of Phil Collins that haunt him. Plans is both a destination and a transitional journey for the group, one that sees the fulfillment of years of toiling away to develop their ideas and sound. But it's with the completion of those ideas that band is faced with a new set of crossroads and challenges to tread upon: to stay the course and suffer stagnation or try something bold and daringly new with their future. Which road they'll take will make all the difference. ~ Rob Theakston
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 27, 2015 | Atlantic Records

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Death Cab for Cutie's eighth full-length album, 2015's Kintsugi, finds the group sliding further into the studio smoothness that marked 2011's Codes and Keys. Produced by Rich Costey -- best-known for his work with Kimbra, Mew, Muse, Interpol, and Chvrches -- Kintsugi is also the last album Death Cab recorded with co-founding member Chris Walla, who announced he was leaving the band during the recording process. Sentiment has always been lead singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard's calling card, but as he starts to stare down the corridor to 40, he seems comfortable with leaving that open heart unadorned -- or, better still, gussied up in a coat of studio shellac. Although there are fragile solo numbers dotted throughout the album, most of Kintsugi shimmers upon a gloss constructed out of new wave remnants and faded memories of yacht rock. Conceivably, Gibbard's intent hews toward the latter -- such clean disco-rock diversions as "Good Help (Is So Hard to Find)" and the galloping collegiate rock echoes of "El Dorado" show a yen for art -- but his open heart nudges Kintsugi toward new millennial soft rock. This is a feature, not a bug. Gibbard has a gentle touch so having cushy, sugary melodies mirrored by a production equally as supple feels like a marriage of intent and sound. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 27, 2015 | Atlantic Records

Death Cab for Cutie's eighth full-length album, 2015's Kintsugi, finds the group sliding further into the studio smoothness that marked 2011's Codes and Keys. Produced by Rich Costey -- best-known for his work with Kimbra, Mew, Muse, Interpol, and Chvrches -- Kintsugi is also the last album Death Cab recorded with co-founding member Chris Walla, who announced he was leaving the band during the recording process. Sentiment has always been lead singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard's calling card, but as he starts to stare down the corridor to 40, he seems comfortable with leaving that open heart unadorned -- or, better still, gussied up in a coat of studio shellac. Although there are fragile solo numbers dotted throughout the album, most of Kintsugi shimmers upon a gloss constructed out of new wave remnants and faded memories of yacht rock. Conceivably, Gibbard's intent hews toward the latter -- such clean disco-rock diversions as "Good Help (Is So Hard to Find)" and the galloping collegiate rock echoes of "El Dorado" show a yen for art -- but his open heart nudges Kintsugi toward new millennial soft rock. This is a feature, not a bug. Gibbard has a gentle touch so having cushy, sugary melodies mirrored by a production equally as supple feels like a marriage of intent and sound. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 27, 2011 | Atlantic Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 29, 2008 | Atlantic Records

After spending the better part of a decade in the musical minor leagues, Death Cab for Cutie went pro with 2005's Plans, a record whose optimism and bright, Technicolor sound gave the band enough leverage to enter the mainstream. "Soul Meets Body" became their biggest rock single to date, but it was Ben Gibbard's delicate love song, "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," that earned the quartet a Grammy nomination and legions of new fans. Some bands might have taken a cue from that success and resigned themselves to a career of acoustic ballads, not unlike the Goo Goo Dolls' transformation in the mid-'90s. But Narrow Stairs roughs up Plans' bright palette with something starker, more harrowing, and altogether darkened by Gibbard's blues. No longer crooning about love or his desire to embrace all of Manhattan, the frontman lives inside his own troubled head on these 11 tracks -- or at least the heads of the characters he conjures up with ease, like some music-minded novelist with a knack for pop melodies and witty observations. There's "Cath," an ill-married girl who "holds a smile like someone would hold a crying child," as well as the creepy stalker in "I Will Possess Your Heart," who simply demands that his intended lover give him the time of day. Elsewhere, Gibbard sings about a friend's recent heartbreak by referencing her bedroom furniture ("Your New Twin Sized Bed"), offering up his concern -- if not quite his help -- while the band conjures up a lazy summer's day beneath him, layering gauzy keyboards with chiming guitar riffs. This sort of contrast between music and text plays an occasional role on Narrow Stairs, with songs like "No Sunlight" and "Long Division" pairing somber lyrics with upbeat, happy orchestration. But the album largely paints itself as the darker, mysterious cousin to Plans -- raw rather than polished, heartbroken rather than optimistic, enigmatic rather than energetic. Gibbard strings his words together with an army of free-flowing "ands" and "buts", and the resulting lyrics -- long, uncoiling sentences with no clear end -- mirror his characters' desperatation. Narrow Stairs is far from desperate, however, and the album's willingness to steer Death Cab into unfamiliar territory (or, to reference an earlier lyric, "into the dark"), is by far its biggest strength. ~ Andrew Leahey
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 29, 2008 | Atlantic Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 17, 2018 | Atlantic Records

With Thank You for Today, Ben Gibbard moves Death Cab for Cutie into a new phase, one that reflects his newly minted middle age and one without Chris Walla. It's a new beginning, but one that announces itself with a whisper. Thank You for Today simmers in a fashion that's not unfamiliar to Death Cab, but there's a definition to the composition and production of its ten songs that keeps the album far from the reaches of mood music. Make no mistake, Thank You for Today still casts a specific spell -- one that's supple yet subtle, music that feels as cozy as a warm bath yet has a quiet urgency derived from Gibbard taking stock of how the world has changed around him. Gibbard doesn't shy away from all of the issues familiar to a modern American urbanite, musing about gentrification and loves old and new, all from a vantage point of somebody who is comfortable about where he's at but knows what's been lost. This results in an album where the melancholy is bittersweet, not all-consuming, which means Thank You for Today is softly reassuring even when its intent is lightly barbed. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released August 29, 2005 | Atlantic Records

For your consideration: a wildly successful indie rock band with a legion of followers on an equally successful, highly credible independent label makes the jump to major-label powerhouse Atlantic, leading to much chagrin and speculation among its fans as they awaited with bated breath for what would happen to the group. The result was For Your Own Special Sweetheart, inarguably the most polished and fully realized album of Dischord alumnus Jawbox's career. Fast forward ten years and you find Barsuk's Death Cab for Cutie in the same position, making the same move. A new label, a larger crowd (thanks to their repeated appearances on The OC), and a side project of Ben Gibbard (Postal Service) that very well overshadowed the success of his main project. All of the moves were perfectly aligned to take the little band that could into the rock stratosphere. But the difference between Jawbox and Death Cab for Cutie was that For Your Own Special Sweetheart went on to be the finest release of Jawbox's canon. Plans definitely comes close to that mark, but falls slightly short. In comparison to the dry, raw production of Transatlanticism, Plans is warm and polished, the kind of album expected from a band obsessed with the sound of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Chris Walla does an amazing job bringing the group's sound in a different direction than before without compromising too many of the things that made the group sound great to begin with. Thematically, Plans is the Death Cab for Cutie suitable for graduate students, world-weary and wiser from their experiences, realizing they can no longer be love-starved 20-somethings without a clue yet hopelessly cursed to face the same issues. And there's merit to be had in acknowledging that maturity, for even blink-182 figured out their age and released their "serious" album. Gibbard's wispy, poetic lyrics (which could easily have been stolen from Aimee Mann's dressing room while she wasn't looking) still remain an artery from which the rest of the band beats and are some of his finest ever, but this time around the band aligns itself more with a series of emotional murmurs rather than a heart attack. The album winds its way from one ballad to the next, with brief stopovers at moderately up-tempo numbers to help break things up a bit. And it's this sense of resignation that either makes or breaks the album, depending on which Death Cab for Cutie is your favorite: the melancholic, hopeless romantic or the one who wears its heart on its sleeve with unbridled energy and passion. If Transatlanticism was Gibbard's Pet Sounds and Postal Service was SMiLE, then this is definitely Wild Honey, loved by adoring new fans and those who enjoy the ballads. But those hoping for a bit more -- for the bar to be raised higher -- might find this a mildly predictable exercise in Gibbard exorcising the demons of Phil Collins that haunt him. Plans is both a destination and a transitional journey for the group, one that sees the fulfillment of years of toiling away to develop their ideas and sound. But it's with the completion of those ideas that band is faced with a new set of crossroads and challenges to tread upon: to stay the course and suffer stagnation or try something bold and daringly new with their future. Which road they'll take will make all the difference. ~ Rob Theakston
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 7, 2019 | Atlantic Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 29, 2008 | Barsuk - Atlantic

Arriving one year after the release of Narrow Stairs, the five-song Open Door EP pairs four abandoned tracks from the Narrow Stairs sessions with a ukulele-helmed demo of "Talking Bird." Although it's certainly a stopgap recording -- released just before the bandmates' final tour in support of Narrow Stairs, and intended to maintain their popularity throughout the subsequent retreat to the recording studio -- Open Door is also a strong display of Death Cab's literate, poetry-major pop, with fast tempos and bright melodies that sometimes contrast Narrow Stairs' autumnal moments. These once-discarded tracks don't sound any less tuneful than the band's recent output; "Little Bribes," in particular, could have bumped a lesser song off of the Narrow Stairs track list with its power pop bounce, while "My Mirror Speaks" wields a winsomely ascending chorus that finds Ben Gibbard reaching into his falsetto. Such tunes may not have suited the bittersweet beauty of Stairs, but they're quite good in their own right, making The Open Door EP something more than a fans-only release. The only arguable misstep is the demo version of "Talking Bird" (the only song to appear on Narrow Stairs, albeit in different form), whose bare-boned arrangement lacks the shifting dynamics of Death Cab's best material. ~ Andrew Leahey
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 13, 2018 | Atlantic Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 30, 2019 | Atlantic Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 16, 2019 | Atlantic Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 15, 2019 | Atlantic Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 26, 2015 | Atlantic Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 19, 2018 | Atlantic Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 22, 2019 | Atlantic Records