Death Cab For Cutie offers a little bit of everything on its second major label album, “Narrow Stairs,” due this week via Atlantic. The 11-track set lives up to bassist Nick Harmer’s description of the material: “a sampling of the most uptempo, upbeat Death Cab songs as well as some of our saddest.”
Several minutes go by before frontman Ben Gibbard’s voice is heard on the eight-minute single “I Will Possess Your Heart,” the most expansive song Death Cab has yet released. A dark Harmer bass riff initially conjures Jane’s Addiction’s “3 Days” before the rest of the band kicks in, shifting the track into atmospheric realms.
“No Sunlight” and “Long Division” are jaunty rockers, while marching-band drums, piano and vintage organ support the state-of-the-relationship ditty “You Can Do Better Than Me.” Death Cab’s more somber side peeks through on “Talking Bird,” and the largely voice-and-guitar closer “The Ice Is Getting Thinner.”
“I didn’t write any songs between finishing ‘Plans’ and June of 2006, which was almost a year,” frontman Ben Gibbard says. “We were on the road and I had no windows of time to sit down and work on them. I set the fall of 2007 as a deadline for myself and made sure to take some time off in between. I sat down by myself and worked on the songs for the first eight months of 2007; I needed that time to rediscover my individuality.”