Death Cab for Cutie: ‘Codes and Keys’ – 3.5 out of 5 stars


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Death Cab for Cutie is known for its fiercely loyal fans, uncomfortably yet beautifully long interludes and incredibly reflective lyrics. 2003’s Transatlanticism and 2006’s Plans are both widely regarded by critics as quintessential albums that defined not only the band’s career but also its style and lyricism. Death Cab for Cutie released its seventh studio album Codes and Keys this year, an album that overall shows evolution, maturity and a refreshing take on alternative music.

The band utilizes its classic echo in a new and innovative way in its use of keyboards, guitars and vocals throughout the album. The vocals in “Some Boys” echo to match the reverberating keyboards. The echo continues into the band’s single, “You Are a Tourist” and later in the uplifting ballad “Unobstructed Views.”

Frontman Ben Gibbard’s lyrics from this album differ greatly from Death Cab’s past album, Narrow Stairs, as Gibbard has left behind dark tales of devastating fires and fruitless relationships in favor of writing about finding love and the eagerness to break from the drone of everyday life to seek something greater.

“We will awake, only to find nothing’s the same,” Gibbard sings of leaving the bounds of our comfort zone in the album’s opener, “Home is a Fire,” later finding that nothing is as we expect it to be. “And with her song in your heart, it can never bring you down,” he sings later in the embarrassingly catchy “Stay Young, Go Dancing.” Codes and Keys allows Gibbard to explore the joys rather than the downfalls of love, and this song warms the listener with its hearty bass drums and the reoccurrence of its humbly sweet acoustic riff.

The pitfall of Codes and Keys is its lack of depth. Sure, the lyrics of love and discovery are beautifully written but Gibbard could have explored those themes more. The album has a few duds—“Portable Television” fails to deliver in uniqueness and “Monday Morning” has little emotional depth to match its well-composed instrumentals.

For a loyal Death Cab fan, Codes and Keys does not disappoint. The lack of depth can be overlooked because the album is so different from its past works. Codes and Keys offers an evolution of sound for the band and lyrics that explore uncharted themes — a move in a new and exciting direction for Death Cab for Cutie.

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