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Ablum Review of Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keys

Posted by Brian McFarland on 06/23 at 01:32 PM

Grade: A

Indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie released their seventh LP entitled Codes and Keys  with Atlantic Records on May 31st. The Washington state band consists of Ben Gibbard (vocals, guitar, and piano), Chris Walla (guitar, production, and keyboards), Nick Hammer (bass), and Jason McGerr (drums). Unlike previously dimmer albums, Codes and Keys gives the listener some hope with its upbeat mix of guitars, drums, and synthesizers. Ben Gibbard’s past experience with Postal Service definitely influenced a lot of the synthesized sound on this album. The happier and deeper songs are something that obviously has evolved through Death Cab’s 14 years of music. They used this album to portray a number of themes such as belonging and finding a place to call home. It also touches on the hope that even when everything seems to be in flames there is stability in love. This album grew on me with every listen, and it left me wanting more.

The opening song, ‘Home Is a Fire,’ is an upbeat, fast paced song with slower vocals that float along. McGerr’s cymbals drive the beat, building anticipation that is more than satisfied by the rest of the album. ‘Some Boys’ shows the maturity of Gibbard and the band, singing about men who sleep around. “Some boys don’t know how to love.”

The first single off the album, ‘You Are a Tourist,’ is set to take over as THE summer song. The beautiful guitar hook and synthesizer that dance along with the song immediately had me excited to hear similar sounds in the rest of the album. But the album takes a turn at ‘Unobstructed Views.’ Here, it takes a slower pace and doesn’t introduce vocals until midway through the song. It also furthers the themes of the album with lyrics like, “And there’s no verse, no monument of words, for our love, for they can’t hold, all I know about my love,” and “storm clouds break, pools remain memories, for Earth embrace, evaporate up above, they become new love.”

The lyrics also show the contrast between the first and second halves of the album. ‘Home Is a Fire’ (the opening number) ends repeating “Nothing’s the same,” four times. However, ‘Underneath The Sycamore’ (the ninth track) repeats six times “We are the same, we are both safe.” It also has “Well I was such a wretched man, searching everywhere for a homeland. And now we are under the same sun. Feel it through the leaves. Let it heal us.” We see Gibbard singing his struggles at the beginning and working them out throughout the album.

The joyous, playful songs from ‘Monday Morning,’ all the way to ‘Stay Young, Go Dancing’ give the album that springtime sound. The bridge of ‘Stay Young, Go Dancing’—“as the music plays, feel our bodies’ sway; when we move as one, we stay young, go dancing”—touches on the youthful, liveliness of the album and brings about a strong ending.

I struggled grading this album. I really had to listen to it over and over to truly appreciate the instrumentals, but the lyrics immediately reeled me in.  Though I was really hoping for the sound of ‘You Are a Tourist’ to appear more throughout the album, the sound that ultimately unfolds is still great. Like any Death Cab album their genius shines through with their originality. They make the music that they want to make, and I love it. So trust me when I say that, though you might not agree with my rating, don’t give up on the album. Listen to it and let it grow.

{name} Author: Brian McFarland
Bio: Brian McFarland is a senior print journalist major with a minor in English. He has a passion for all forms of original, creative music. In his spare time he likes to attend shows, play sports, read, and write. He loves the indie scene but still loves music of all genres and sounds. Favorite bands include Brand New, Emery, Thursday, and Blink 182.

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