Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Death Cab for Cutie: Narrow Stairs

The waiting finally ended and merely a week ago, Narrow Stairs hit shelves just in time to get the summer off to a good start. The verdict is simple. It's a good album. Death Cab has created another finely crafted piece of work with real depth and dimension. Take the third track, for example. "No Sunlight" is a relatively bouncy, up tempo song that has a lightness to it which is completely ironic in context of the lyrics which speak of the death of idealism and optimism. They're keeping us on our toes. Normally brooding wears thin on me, which could be problematic for Death Cab fan like me, but what saves them is that most of these songs are at least mid they've perfected what I call, "dark but pretty." They possess a certain grace.

An interesting aspect of this album is that Ben Gibbard wrote most of it at Big Sur, channeling Jack Kerouac. "Bixby Canyon Bridge" is the most obvious tip of the hat to the country-crossing scribe and full time mad man. With regards to the song, it's probably one of the best on the album-- clear, hauntingly descriptive, with Gibbard's voice sounding like it's straddling worlds-- his and Kerouac's. There's also a distinct flavor of California in the arrngements. Rocking the retro vibe, "You Can Do Better Than Me" is oddly amusing with that same juxtaposition of more serious material with a lighter presentation. Other great tracks include the apocalyptic "Grapevine Fires" and "The Ice Was Getting Thinner."

I wasn't grabbed as quickly as I was by Plans but there's no doubt that this is a solid album that grows on you. Death Cab doesn't tell happy tales but they don't drag you down either. It's an enjoyable album to listen to and I think that's an often underestimated quality. Look's like Death Cab's done it again, kids.

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