Seven albums in and nearly 15 years later, indie rock stalwarts Death Cab For Cutie are getting a little weird -- and doing it right. On "Codes and Keys," out today (May 31, Atlantic), listeners get a clear sense of where its members currently find themselves: in adulthood. And apparently it's been a long, laborious haul to get there.
Early reports suggested the album was not a guitar-based album -- a shift from 2008's singularly rock-focused "Narrow Stars." While "Codes and Keys" is less of a "they're trading in their guitars for synthesizers" moment than some might expect, the album's subtle experimentation makes all the difference, infusing darkness without maudlin emo-ness into one of Death Cab's best. And in consideration of Ben Gibbard's electronic Postal Service project, we have to wonder -- why didn't this synth love happen sooner?
Which tracks on "Codes and Keys" shine? Here's our Twitter-length track-by-track review of each song.
You be the judge: What do you think of Death Cab For Cutie's "Codes and Keys"? Tweet us your own review at @billboarddotcom (using hashtag #bbdeathcab). The best tweets will be posted on Billboard.com in the coming days.
1. "Home Is A Fire" - Immediately struck by slight-yet-manic percussive beat pushing song forward. Someone's uneasy - and has been listening to Radiohead to cope.
2. "Codes and Keys" - When bassist Nick Harmer told me DCFC was considering bringing a strings section on tour, I didn't get it. Now I do, thanks to this anthem.
3. "Some Boys" - DCFC has gone eerie many times before but rarely so poignantly. Ben Gibbard's feminist moment, and undoubtedly the album's standout track.
4. "Doors Unlocked and Open" - One of several songs on the album referencing California, a new life, isolation. Was it dreamt up while sitting in stand-still L.A. traffic?
5. "You Are a Tourist" - "If you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born then it's time to go" - line ripe for adoration by those fleeing home for 1st time.
6. "Unobstructed Views" - DCFC has become fond of the long lead-in. As in, 1st half of song. Not exactly "I Will Possess Your Heart" pt. 2, but a spacey, ambient jam.
7. "Monday Morning" - "She may be young but she only likes old things" - hard to imagine Ben's singing about anyone but wife Zooey Deschanel. A return to upbeat melancholy.
8. "Portable Television" - As soon as the start-stop piano kicks in, I think Scott Joplin. Makes little sense, but there's an old-timey vibe making this one different.
9. "Underneath the Sycamore" - Between the cheery sentimentalism & friendly riffs, this is as stereotypically 'Death Cab' as this album gets. Electro touches = potential single?
10. "St. Peter's Cathedral" - Just a voice & a synth to kick it off. Like the Postal Service, 'cept no dancing allowed. By the time it ends, it's swelled to something epic.
11. "Stay Young Go Dancing" - For a song called "Stay Young Go Dancing," this is awfully acoustic, but it would make one helluva waltz. Reminds me of Canadian band Stars.