Finding Home

Before Codes and Keys released,Death Cab for Cutie’s vocalist Benjamin Gibbard and guitarist and producer Chris Walla talked about.

Written by Pooja Pillai | Published: July 9, 2011 12:27:29 am

Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys

Atlantic | Rs 295 ,rating: ***

Before Codes and Keys released,Death Cab for Cutie’s vocalist Benjamin Gibbard and guitarist and producer Chris Walla talked about how this album was going to be different from their previous efforts in fundamental ways. It was going to be less guitar-centric,to start with,and the music was going to be more “impressionistic” than “photographic”,unlike their previous albums. It was also going to be very,very experimental.

It would seem like the band has succeeded on all three counts. The cozy guitar that made previous songs like I Will Follow You Into the Dark and A Lack of Color such pleasurable listens has been pushed into the background. Here,sweeping strings — performed by the Magik*Magik Orchestra — elevate the title track Codes and Keys and Stay Young,Go Dancing. The experimentation is evident in songs like Doors Unlocked and Open and Unobstructed Views,where Death Cab sounds like Sigur Ros on helium and impressionistic,like Gibbard and Walla promised,but still pop enough to sound themselves.

Gibbard,who is also the main songwriter for the band,seems to have eschewed the sentimentality that permeated songs like Soul Meets Body and Summer Skin from their 2005 album,Plans. Instead he’s tackling a bigger issue here; the idea of finding a “home”. He’s done this successfully before with Your Heart is an Empty Room,but with the new album,he goes in deeper. In You Are A Tourist he says,“If you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born then it’s time to go”,while on Monday Morning,he sings,“I’m a bird that’s in need of grounding.” They may sound bleak,but the band is definitely growing up and it will be interesting to see where they go in their next few efforts. One wishes they had retained from previous albums the warm intimacy of Gibbard’s vocals. On Codes and Keys,he sounds distant; perhaps because of the distortion effects that have been added to his voice. We understand that big sacrifices have to be made for ambition,but sacrificing the very heart of one’s music may prove foolhardy. This is a band that many have grown up listening to,from the indie days of Something About Airplanes in 1998,to the switch to the mainstream with Plans in 2005. On their journey to find themselves a niche,hopefully Death Cab for Cutie won’t lose themselves.

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