Wednesday, May 14th, 2008
Photo via MySpace.com
The timing with which my attention wandered from Death Cab For Cutie was rather unfortunate. In the early ’00s, We Have The Facts And Are Voting Yes and The Photo Album were absolute staples of my musical diet, fulfilling my daily recommended amounts of jangle, melody and melancholy. For someone in stumbling into their mid-20s with nary a clue as to what that meant, Ben Gibbard’s earnest, clear-eyed and freshly-scrubbed ponderings from that same grey area between youth and adulthood were particularly resonant.
But around the time of 2003’s Transatlanticism, our frequencies began to diverge. Thanks to a certain television program which has thankfully vanished from the lexicon of pop culture, Death Cab had become the spokesband for a generation that I wasn’t part of, and becoming less so every day. Which is not to say that I had gotten a handle on the confusion of my early 20s, far from it – I just needed more intensely depressive music to soundtrack it. And this is where the unfortunate timing comes into play – I opted to not pick up 2005’s Plans because I found I wasn’t inclined to listen to the Death Cab I did have, so there wasn’t much point in picking up another one that wasn’t likely to get much rotation. Of course, Plans also happened to be their first album for Atlantic and so for someone inclined to read stuff into stuff, this could be construed as a boycott of the band now that they’d signed to a major label. It wasn’t, it was just coincidence.
Of course, in hindsight – and by hindsight, I mean rereading what I just wrote – that’s seems kind of silly. Mostly because no one really cares if I’ve stopped listening to a particular band or why, and since I believe Plans did indeed outsell all their previous records and elevated the band to the sort of stature that signing to a major label is supposed to achieve, so everybody wins. And even to this day, I still haven’t heard Plans. But I have heard their newest album Narrow Stairs, just released yesterday, and as such am comfortable speculating that I didn’t miss any grand evolution (or devolution) in the Death Cab sound because Stairs is still so very familiar.
I’ve been reading some of the press around the release of the new record and the primary talking points seem to be that much of the record was recorded live off the floor (or close to it) and that the first single, “I Will Possess Your Heart”, is really long. And both of these things are true – there is a pleasant dryness to the production that I don’t even recall hearing on their early works and the instrumental intro to “Heart” is indeed really long and creates a groove that has Chris Walla’s shoegaze/britpop-loving fingerprints all over it – a shame that the video edit omits pretty much all of it because the rest of the song doesn’t really measure up. Beyond that, though, much of Stairs – which is backloaded with the best material – sounds like it could date back to Transatlanticism, comprised of jaunty pop numbers alternated with contemplative ballads and capable of rocking out when the need arises (but not too much). Thematically, Gibbard still seems to be broadcasting from the ambivalence of his mid-20s. A bit odd for a guy who’s my age, but he still sells the sentiments as sincere so more power to him. It does mean that I’ll likely never relate to a Death Cab record the way I once did, but that’s okay – I can still appreciate the songcraft and anyways I’ve no great desire to feel like I’m back in my 20’s. No sir.
Spin is all over the release of the new record, with a feature story in the latest issue and a cute set of videos of people around the world listening to clips from the new album. Current also has a documentary short that goes behind the scenes of the making of the new record. The AV Club gets Gibbard to interview Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek.
Death Cab are headlining this year’s Olympic Island mini-festival on June 7 alongside Stars, Rogue Wave and Young Galaxy, and courtesy of Against The Grain and Warner Music Canada, I’ve got giveaways. One grand prize winner will get a pair of passes to the show on the Toronto Islands and three runners-up will get copies of the new album on CD. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to take a Death Cab to the Stars” in the subject line and your full mailing address in the body. I’ll let this contest run until midnight, May 26 when I’m back from my trans-Atlantic adventures and (hopefully) not overly jet-lagged.
Back in March leading up to The Hot Freaks at SxSW, we got AmpLive, the artist responsible for the Raindydayz Remixes rethink of Radiohead’s In Rainbows and between-set DJ for the second day of our event, to take a swing at remixing some of the performing artists. The net result is are a mash-up of MGMT (who didn’t play our show) and Of Montreal (whose Kevin Barnes did a solo set) and a remix of The Jealous Girlfriends (who also played and will be at the El Mocambo on June 3).
Okkervil River’s Will Sheff talks to Tiny Mix Tapes about the band’s tough early days, reaping the rewards of The Stage Names, the can’t-be-beat value of their tour with The New Pornographers and the forthcoming Stage Names Appendix.
Hey look, Iggy Pop is coming to town, and presumably he’s bringing the Stooges with him. That show will be August 6 at Massey Hall.