Review : Death Cab For Cutie - Codes and Keys
AbsolutepunkIt has been just over three years since the release Death Cab For Cutie’s highly experimental Narrow Stairs. Differing from the groundbreaking Transatlanticism and haunting Plans, Narrow Stairs had a more raw feel to it – more electric guitars, distortion, and heavier instrumentation. That is not to say that it did not feature the intricate nature of Death Cab’s previous efforts, as tracks such as “Talking Bird” and “The Ice Is Getting Thinner” were poignant and mysterious cuts. In this way, the experimentation of Narrow Stairs made it a record that took time to resonate and fully appreciate – it was a record that got better with time.
However, while recording the highly anticipated follow-up record, the perfectly titled Codes and Keys, Death Cab explained that the record would be a departure from Narrow Stairs, equipped with more keyboards and less guitars. Sure enough, that’s exactly the case. What results from this different approach is a record of true beauty, encompassing every aspect of Death Cab For Cutie’s discography into one definitive record. It’s the haunting keyboards, meek vocals, and eerie fuzzy distortion echoed throughout Codes and Keys that generate a record that pushes the limits of their sound to the peak.
In fact, it’s the lack thereof of the heavy instrumentation used throughout the majority of Narrow Stairs that allows an unheard depth and intricacy to surface here, for behind all of the effects and grungy instrumentation, vocalist Ben Gibbard reaches his greatest potential. The beautiful piano melodies, drumming, and vocal performance make Codes and Keys a full band effort – and at that, possibly the best effort by Death Cab For Cutie to date.
Singing timidly as the record begins, Gibbard introduces “Home Is A Fire” with his softest singing before Chris Walla’s piano correlates beautifully with Gibbard’s voice, creating what is arguably the most controlled piece of music on the record. Clearly, the obscure drumming of Jason McGeer and well-placed piano pieces adds an atmospheric depth to Codes and Keys. The following title track highlights the beauty of the combination, as Gibbard displays one of his best vocal performances over beautiful piano and soft drumming....full text
RollingstoneThis new ballad (heard here in a live, solo-piano version) proudly bites Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Ben Gibbard follows minor falls and major lifts to the cold and broken refrain, "We are a-live" — sounding both fragile and optimistic....full text
PrefixmagDeath Cab for Cutie aren't necessarily release-crazed, but they do like to remain consistent in terms of how often they drop a new album. As such, it wasn't surprising when the band, whose members have plenty of side gigs, announced that their seventh studio album, Codes and Keys, would come three years after 2008's Narrow Stairs. What was somewhat surprising, though, was that Death Cab'ers Ben Gibbard and Nick Harmer stating that Codes and Keys is very much a less guitar-centric album, according to an interview with Stereogum. What they meant, though, is that the guitars will be used in different ways, such as translating melodies into vocals or keyboards. Also, guitarist Chris Walla has more songwriting credits on here.
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