23 May 2008

Sound Waves: Death Cab for Cutie

ARTIST: Death Cab for Cutie
ALBUM: Narrow Stairs
LABEL: Atlantic

All right. Discussion's over.

No longer will the question of Who is the Greatest American Band Working Today? go unanswered. Death Cab for Cutie have officially filled the slot that was penciled in for them with Plans, which proved that Transatlanticism was no fluke.

It was just a few years ago that Death Cab released a DVD of fan-made videos called Directions, but this album could easily have taken that title. With richer textures behind Gibbard's trademark melancholy lyrics, this album feels as if it goes deeper than albums past. Take for instance the lead single, "I Will Possess Your Heart." The full version lasts a full eight and a half minutes, blowing previous 5+ minute jams "Transatlanticism" and "What Sarah Said" out of the water. No one could have really expected this from the Seattle group, not even the band themselves. "[I]t's totally a curve ball," guitarist Chris Walla said in Billboard.

And from track to track, you really won't know what to expect. Narrow Stairs is far more varied than its predecessors, and that's truly impressive. I know I would have been just fine with another album of great ballads, but it shows that the band still cares about maturing and growing as a band, and their music hasn't suffered one bit.

Gibbard's lyrics are as pointed as ever, and boy do they cut like a knife: "Sometimes I think of leaving/But it's something I'll never do/'Cuz you can do better than me/But I can't do better than you" he sings in "You Can Do Better Than Me." Ouch. But his heart isn't the only one that's breaking. He sings of an unnamed lady, who has ditched her queen for a "New Twin-Sized Bed" with "a single pillow under your single head." The words haven't just gone over to the dark side, they're completely immersed in it.

But no matter how bleak the music gets, Narrow Stairs is further proof that Death Cab are in the top tier of bands worldwide. It's only taken them 10 years to get here. Who knows what might happen in the next 10? No one really knows for sure, but I'll be following them into the dark.

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