Death Cab For Cutie
March 31, 2015
Breaking the routine seems to have worked out relatively well. Death Cab sounds more fresh and organic than they have in a long time and thanks to the excellent mixing and engineering the tone of the album has a perfect balance to it. Ever since "The Photo Album", the band has been quite successful with the Walla-produced albums on which they shaped and re-shaped the typical Death Cab-sound. Thankfully, Costley was able to contain that signature sound. One does notice a difference though. The synths are slightly more pronounced than they were before and there's an eclectic melting pot of styles and instrumentations that works out very well. Obviously Death Cab is familiar with surprising instrumentation but often the band was either very sonic or very subdued and intimate while on "Kintsugi" they manage to combine the two, as is most obvious on Black Sun.
"Kintsugi" which refers to the Japanese art of making something new out of something that's broken is a well-chosen title as music really has the ability to pick you up off the ground and help you back up. It doesn't take away the pain, the joy or the frustration (or any other emotion) but it acknowledges it and gives you a way to cope with these feelings. They become a part of you and you are able to give them a place within the 'new' you. At least, that is often how I experience music that I really relate to. Death Cab For Cutie is one of those bands who is able to convey such a message in their songs, which is what happens on "Kintsugi" as well. The fresh, organic sound of the album delivers instantly and provides a great balance between the familiarity of the Death Cab sound and something new alltogether. It brings along enthusiasm to the listener because you can hear the band's enthusiasm in making this record. While I wouldn't place "Kintsugi" on the same level as the band's masterpieces ("Transatlanticism" & "Plans") it does somehow connect to the sound and feel of the band's pre-"Narrow Stairs" catalogue.
The first half of the album is a lot stronger than the second half. The vocal timing of Black Sun emphasizes the lyrics with perfection and in the way of interpretation it's vaguely reminiscent of "Transatlanticism". The Ghost of Beverly Drive immediately grabs the attention. The exciting nature of the song, primarily in the chorus, energizes the song and the listener alike. The song breathes indie as it combines electronica, post-grunge guitars and swelling drums with danceable, melodic vocals; one of the best songs on the record.
On Little Wanderer, favorite of frontman Benjamin Gibbard, the band seems to have gotten their inspiration from the seventies. A typical guitar riff opens the song iconically and while the song has a somewhat melancholic character there is also a slight rootsy undertone, which is most obvious when the band moves into the chorus and sings "...you're my wanderer, little wanderer...". Other memorable songs on "Kintsugi" are the captivating You've Haunted Me All My Life with its subtle arrangement, the impressively bare Hold No Guns, and the beautifully fragile Binary Sea which closes out the record.
After the first listen, I said that I finally heard the Death Cab I had been missing for the past couple of years again. With "Kintsugi" they managed to find their roots again and really express themselves with all their fiber. Not every song is a grand slam and the album doesn't quite measure up to the band's highlight albums of "Transatlanticism" and "Plans" in my opinion, but "Kintsugi" is an album that I am extremely appreciative of as it feels very real and clearly captures where Death Cab is at right now as a band. There is a sort of calm excitement to it that is hard to describe but you will recognize it when you listen to the album. What I'm trying to say is that "Kintsugi" is the right album for Death Cab For Cutie at this point in time with which they prove they still are one of the best alternative bands of the modern generation.