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Album review: Death Cab for Cutie's 'Codes and Keys'

Death-cab-for-cutie-codes-and-keys-album-cover For a guy who once sang of Los Angeles, “It's a lovely summer's day / And I can almost see a skyline through a thickening shroud of egos,” Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie sure seems to have made a nice new life here.

Marrying Zooey Deschanel will brighten anyone’s mood, but on his band’s new album, “Codes and Keys,” he’s picked up a bit of L.A.’s sun-scarred optimism and a droll domestic satisfaction that’s alternately smug and insightful.

Fortunately, it’s all bolstered by some of the most enticing production of the band’s career. The title track has a nifty orchestral swoon atop some Spector-ish drum pomp and bar piano; the ethereal guitars on “Underneath the Sycamore” back up one of the group’s strongest choruses in years. The nimble krautrock jam “Doors Unlocked & Open” is a perfect genre experiment.

But Gibbard’s barbed wit can feel unattractive coupled with themes of finding bliss. The insistent rocker “Some Boys” catalogs male emotional failures, but with an undercurrent of “…except for this guy” to it. Before, he’d plead guilty first. “Stay Young Go Dancing” is a rebuttal to his old take on L.A.: “Life is sweet in the belly of the beast,” he sings atop a pop-country acoustic guitar. Sounds as if he’s just starting his 500 days of summer.

Death Cab for Cutie
“Codes and Keys”
Two and a half stars (Out of four stars)

-- August Brown

Comments () | Archives (4)

you second guess the genius that is Ben Gibbard????

I agree. The album is eh. I do love Doors Unlocked and Open and Underneath the Sycamore, though. And You Are a Tourist is amazing. But I am a little depressed over Gibbard's change in attitude. He used to be a clever mix of romantic realist. Now he's just romantic. It's kind of annoying.

The two songs you listed as weak are indeed weak. "Some Boys" and "Stay Young Go Dancing" don't work for me at all.

But, the rest of the album is very strong. "Codes and Keys" is great. "St. Peter's Cathedral" is wonderful. "Doors Unlocked and Open" is nice. Ditto "Underneath the Sycamore". I also like "Home is a Fire".

I'd give it 3 out of 4.

The reason people are not liking this album as much, is that it does not have that melancholy feel and soundscape previous albums have. Marrying Zoey was the primal reason here, lets face it, when artists are sad. They produce amazing music. (Not all artists) But for Death Cab, a staple of that sad/sastisfying music, is what they are known for generaly. But their previous happier works like The Open Door EP and Photobooth had more witty lyrics and beats. Lots of great standout tracks on this album. But lacking in some areas. It seems they just threw it together last minute. This album reminds me of U2's No Line On The Horizon. A few standout tracks, and the rest is bleh. 3/5 Stars.


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