For months, a vague release date of spring 2011 has been attached to "Codes and Keys," Death Cab For Cutie's seventh studio album that reportedly features the band relying less on a guitar-based sound. But a release date of May 31 has now been announced for the album, the Washington alt-rock quartet's third through Atlantic Records.

"This is our seventh album and now, almost fifteen years in, it's still really exciting to get back in the
studio -- there's still so much musical territory to cover together," bassist Nick Harmer tells Billboard.com.

But fear not, Death Cab devotees: The album does not exactly see band members selling their guitars and buying synthesizers, but rather, opening themselves up to a wider range of instruments.

Harmer clarifies that the album will simply stand as a departure from "Narrow Stairs," DCFC's live-tracked, guitar-heavy sixth album. So there will be guitars -- but also a lot more, including "great, weird, analog synths," Harmer says, "and we have a string section on a couple songs."

Those hoping for a collaboration with frontman Ben Gibbard's new bride, actress and She & Him songstress Zooey Deschanel, can keep dreaming -- guest spots are not the band's style. However, Gibbard's personal lyrical approach has influenced songs that Harmer calls "topical and very mature."

"I think all we've been doing as we grow older is just finding a balance between being in a band and not being in a band," says Harmer.

Touring and promotion throughout the spring, summer and fall will follow, including a headlining gig at Sasquatch! Music Festival just before the album's release and an appearance on VH1's "Storytellers" series. According to Harmer, there is even the potential for DCFC to take a strings section on the road -- the first time the band has done so.

The album sees the band being led production-wise, as usual, by its own guitarist Chris Walla, who worked with Alan Moulder (Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins) to mix the album.

Death Cab For Cutie's most recent album, 2008's "Narrow Stairs," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and has sold 595,000 copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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