james debate
james debate

Sunday 26 June 2011

Genre Indie-Rock
Label Atlantic
Producers Chris Walla
codes and keys death cab for cutie ephemeric

In recent years, the all-encompassing hype that had built around Ben Gibbard's centrepiece project Death Cab for Cutie has faded to an extent, with just the one album since their 2005 peak, and a relatively underwhelming one at that.

With their latest release, Codes and Keys, the band has wisely decided to shake things up a bit. Phonically sparse, and less guitar-centric than their earlier work, this album sounds more like something from Gibbard's other noteworthy outlet, the Postal Service. The shimmering and elaborate effects mark a definite change, but not necessarily one that is detrimental.

The obvious first single is You Are a Tourist, an addictive and uptempo number filled with delicious pop hooks and youthful lyrics. More than any other song on the album, this is one that epitomises what we have come to expect, and if you're a fan of the band then that is a very good thing.

But that's not to say that things don't go as well when they try something a little different, as is the case with the entrancing Unobstructed Views, a track which takes a page from the recent wave of Oceanic electro-pop in flavour and style, or Monday Morning, a playful, at times spacey song of lovestruck nostalgia.

Then there’s the titular track Codes and Keys, an orchestrated and more elaborate tune that achieves one of the more powerful and melancholy moments on the album, while Underneath the Sycamore will please fans of previous albums Plans and Narrow Stairs and their particular brand of upbeat romanticism.

Ultimately what makes this album a success and an improvement upon more recent efforts is the return of Death Cab’s distinct energy, an optimistic vibrancy that pervades even their more low-tempo or gloomy songs to some extent. Plans had it, Transatlanticism had it. Narrow Stairs did not, but Codes and Keys marks the return to form for Gibbard and co.

The overall proceedings may not be consistently convincing, but with a handful of decent songs and some particularly fine moments the end result is a very worthwhile album and an intriguing hint of where the band might be heading with its next album.

Must Listen
You Are a Tourist

Monday Morning

Codes and Keys

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