death cab for cutie kintsugi

Album Review: Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi

I decided to write about a band my wife introduced to me in anticipation of their new album release this morning. A couple years back, my wife and I were playing through our iTunes to show each other our favorite bands. She brought up Death Cab for Cutie, a band I had always mistaken as being a post-hardcore rock band. Boy was I wrong! Their gentle and mellow tunes got to me, and I was instantly hooked. A few years later, Death Cab has released their 8th album, and I felt inclined to share it to everyone.

Residing in Washington, Death Cab for Cutie is currently Ben Gibbard on lead vocals/guitar/keys, Nick Harmer on bass/vocals/keys, and Jason McGerr on drums. The band’s lead guitarist and producer Chris Walla left the band earlier this year, but contributed to their latest album. The band’s sound is easily labeled as indie rock, pop and alternative rock, providing a much softer sound than what I typically listen to. In fact, I have created a whole new genre of rock revolving around this band and sound; I call it “office rock.” With its mellow and catchy tune, I can safely play bands like Death Cab loudly at work, and not annoy my coworkers. Along with their previous albums, their latest album “Kintsugi” is worth a listen for my readers who are interested in hearing something a little different.

Even though the album’s theme and influences can be read on every other album reviewing website in great detail, it’s notable to mention here since it relates to the entire mood and is the driving force behind the album’s lyrics. The interesting album title “Kintsugi” comes from the practice of mending broken ceramics with precious metals to give them more value than it was originally. The title is fitting, since the entire album is directly impacted by this concept of being broken. From Gibbard’s divorce to Walla’s departure from the band, Death Cab was cracking, but managed to pull themselves together and create such a wonderful album. The album opens with a sound of a heart monitor, as if Death Cab knew themselves that they were on life support between albums. What follows is 45 minutes of pulling up of the bootstraps and trekking forward.

Death Cab for Cutie
Photo by OC Register

Gibbard’s voice is the perfect choice in telling such a story. His reminiscent voice has such great range and harmony, befitting such a melancholic task. The listener can truly feel the pain behind his voice as he tells of his divorce, his frustrations, and the challenges in finding one’s mid-life identity. The lyrics to the album’s opening track “No Room In Frame” are very moving, and definitely could be the greatest break-up song out there right now (Comment below what you believe is the greatest “break-up” song). The song’s chorus and bridge perfectly describe the wretched feelings between jilted lovers:

“Was I in your way / When the cameras turned to face you? / No room in frame for two / And how can I stay in the sun / When the rain flows all through my veins / It’s true / And I guess it’s not a failure we could help / And we’ll both go on to get lonely with someone else / With someone else.” (source)

To hear that guitarist Chris Walla left the band was tragic news for me. Being the band’s lead guitarist and my personal favorite instrument in the band, I will miss his impact on future records. All the more to listen to this album, since it contains Walla’s last work with the band. The rhythm generated in songs like “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” and “El Dorado” are what got me into the band in the first place. Being such a vocally-driven band, Walla can easily take control when needed with clean guitar chords and catchy guitar solos. With lyrics that are often downbeat and mournful , Walla is able to pick the listener back up, which is perfectly exampled in the song “Everything’s A Ceiling.” Despite the gloomy mood about being at your lowest point in life, Walla is still able to generate a simple, yet powerful guitar pattern, a sound that let’s us know everything’s ok. I’ll miss his presence in the future, but knowing he is only but one member of the band, I look forward to hearing what the remaining members will do in the future.

For the first time in a while, I have to say that the best thing about “Kintsugi” is the album’s single, and for the first time mentioned on this blog, is the album’s music video. Hey, there’s a first for everything! It only took the album’s single “Black Sun” to get me hooked and excited for this release. The track is striped down and very simple like most singles, but is full of synthesizers, phased-out guitar rhythms, and a heavily-overdriven guitar solo in the song’s bridge. The lyrics are absolutely perfect, continuing the theme started by “No Room In Frame.” I could simply write out the entire song’s lyrics so you can see for yourself how spiteful and meaningful they are, but I’ll instead pick out my favorite lines of the song:

“There is a desert veiled in pavement / And there’s a city of seven hills / And all our debris flows to the ocean / To meet again, I hope it will…

There is a role of a lifetime / And there’s a song yet to be sung / And there’s a dumpster in the driveway / Of all the plans that came undone…

There is whiskey in the water / and there is death upon the vine / And there is grace within forgiveness / But it’s so hard for me to find…

How could something so fair be so cruel / When this black sun revolved around you…” (source)

All I can say is “Ouch!” Wouldn’t want to be on Gibbard’s list. In addition to this awesome song is their music video, featuring a stuntman being repeatedly ran over by a car as the femme-fetale/leading role is being pampered off-screen. That is the perfect simile for someone’s whose been heartbroken and trampled, and I applaud the band for such a fitting music video.

Death Cab for Cutie
Photo by Billboard

I recommend “Kintsugi” to those looking for some “office rock,” or for background music for any shindig. Death Cab can be compared to the likes of The Decemberists, City and Colour, Modest Mouse, Brand New, Iron & Wine, and Lydia. If you like what you’re hearing, I recommend you check out my favorite album by them “Narrow Stairs,” or their commercially successful “Transatlanticism.” Please support this amazing album that was released today by purchasing through iTunes. You can find this band on their website or on Twitter as they prepare for their tour in support of this album.

death cab for cutie kintsugiPurchase “Kintsugi” by Death Cab For Cutie by clicking the album cover above!

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4 thoughts on “Album Review: Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi

  1. […] Like my previous post, “Little Hell” is much softer than my normal taste of progressive rock/metal, but is nonetheless an album that fights it way towards the top of my most played list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this album, since listening to this album easily reminds me of my wife, the adventures, the trials, the tribulations, the joys, and the blessings we’ve been through. In a way, this perfectly describes the theme of this album. Many of the songs focus on Green’s own trials and tribulations, whether marital, family, or personal. Songs like “O’ Sister” and “The Grand Optimist” show Green’s relationship with his family, while “We Found Each Other in the Dark” and “Northern Wind” grant us a look into his marriage. This album is one of the most personal albums I’ve heard, and shows throughout the album his emotions to the listener. Ranging from hopeful highs to downright depressing lows, “Little Hell” pulls at the listener’s heartstrings. […]

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  2. I used to listen to Death Cab quiet a bit back in the day, but neglected listening to them as I got older due to a preference in heavier music. However, there are days when I still enjoy kicking back with more mellow music. I’ll have to pick up their new album and give it a try! Really well written article by the way. I enjoyed the read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the kind words! As I said in the post, I only listened to these guys because of my wife. I tend to listen to harder music, but love a change of pace once in a while. Definitely check out this album; it’s worth the listen.

      Liked by 1 person

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