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Posted on March 31st, 2015 (10:00 am) by Casey Bauer

Death Cab for Cutie is a band that has held our hand through the tug o' war of adolescence. Like us, they too have fumbled in tiny backseats and felt the pang of broken households. They've been there for breakups and meaningless flings, deaths and marriages, and if you look hard enough, even a few moments of comic relief. Not only did we grow up with the band, they grew up with us, stepping on every stone of adulthood along the way. Every fumble feels familiar and suddenly we're not entirely alone in this crazy world. Now, seventeen years after the band's formation, a new wave of young adults can cling on to a band that has become such a coming-of-age musical staple.

Perhaps this is the reason fans hold the group so dearly; Death Cab's humility and simple, yet powerful, vignettes are helpful, of course, but we also can't help but smile when we're reminded that Ben Gibbard wasn't the only one that drank from paper cups. The lead singer may have dropped the alcohol for other hobbies, but some of us still aren't above the occasional Styrofoam dishware, and listening to old and new Death Cab records is just as satisfyingly nostalgic.

Kintsugi marks the eighth album from Death Cab For Cutie and a major turning point for the band. Venturing into uncharted territory, the band will continue on without the fellowship of Chris Walla for the first time since the band formed in 1997. It wasn't an unexpected announcement, however; the foursome says it was something they had talked about before. Even after his departure, the guys are on great terms and Walla's musical influence can still be spotted on the latest record. What the future holds for Death Cab is yet to be determined, but Kintsugi shows us that the band's musicality holds as strong as ever.

No longer angsty young adults, the guys of Death Cab have grown up and lived through the more serious sides of love. Marriage and kids generally sway a band's content, and of course Gibbard's divorce from Zooey Deschanel couldn't possibly sneak by the band's lyric book, either. Kintsugi has been described as a “break-up” album, and perhaps it is. However, Gibbard also warns listeners that assumptions aren't always accurate. It's a tricky line to toe, being a songwriter using the first person when your audience can (and usually does) assume that your personal and professional lives intersect. A grain of salt is recommended, and all we can do is try to take the music at face value as much as possible and remember that Gibbard and other writers are storytellers. “I” doesn't necessarily mean them, per se, but there are moments in Kintsugi where we raise an eyebrow.

The album starts with a heart monitor-like beeping and a humble confession: “I don't know where to begin.” Gibbard then goes on to pick apart the many feelings that go into an ending relationship: “we'll both go on to get lonely with someone else” and our favorite passive aggressive-ism, “was I in your way when the cameras turned to face you, no room in frame for two.” Yes, we just said not to read too much into the lyrics, but not many (ex)wives constantly have cameras in their face, either. Whether this was a blatant shot at Deschanel or not, Gibbard always hits the hardest when less words are used.

When listening to Kintsugi, the initial reaction is comfort. This is a Death Cab for Cutie album inside and out, and so we mostly know what to expect. Part of the group's charm is that they never try to be anything that they're not. Their instrumentation is never horribly complex, rather, a silky backdrop that colors the mood for the band's lyrical gold. Tracks like “Hold No Guns” and “Binary Sea” are heavy versions of this, reminding us of past gorgeously gloomy songs, such as “The Ice Is Getting Thinner” and “Brothers On A Hotel Bed.” “Little Wanderer” is also riddled with long-distanced sentiments that make us replay the song for simple lines such as, “someone's gotta be the lighthouse and that someone's gotta be me.” A taste of something new, however, can be found in “Good Help” and “Everything's A Ceiling,” two refreshing tracks that dabble in a watery synth and funky, syncopated guitars. “Ingenue” also cleanses the palette with percussive claps and surprising "oh-la-la" chants.

The album draws to a close on an abrupt, but optimistic note, Gibbard crooning, “so lean in close or lend an ear, there's something brilliant bound to happen here.” After forty-five minutes of reliving many (or maybe just the one) broken relationship, Death Cab lights the way for us. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery to highlight its damage, rather than hide it, and if ever there was a perfect title for an album, it's this. We're still waiting for the day when Death Cab takes a leap and does something drastically different, but the band's consistency is something to be celebrated. There's still lots of life left in this band; and the guys too. We're bound to hear about it sometime soon.

Track List:

  1. No Room In Frame
  2. Black Sun
  3. The Ghost Of Beverly Drive
  4. Little Wanderer
  5. You’ve Haunted Me All My Life
  6. Hold No Guns
  7. Everything’s A Ceiling
  8. Good Help (Is So Hard To Find)
  9. El Dorado
  10. Ingenue
  11. Binary Sea
Death Cab For Cutie - Kintsugi Review
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Our Rating

82 / 100
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