Death Cab for Cutie are born again; emotionally moving and heart-wrenchingly honest, this album cannot be missed by alternative rock fanatics.
Death Cab for Cutie made their debut in 1998 with Something About Airplanes. It gained critical acclaim in the independent music scene; but it was not until 2003’s Transatlanticism when the band was launched into mainstream commercial success. They were labelled many things – indie pop, indie rock, even emo, but most accurately as alternative rock. However, Death Cab for Cutie are one of those bands that don’t ‘try’ to fit within certain music genre. Despite their international success, they are still referred to as niche in the modern rock climate.
Bassist Nick Hamer admits that the departure of their long time guitarist and producer, Chris Walla, inspired the title of their eighth LP, saying “That resonated with us as a philosophy, and it connected to a lot of what we were going through, both professionally and personally.” Kintsugi refers to the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery in a way that highlights the flawed parts; it values the imperfect, and the process of repair as a metaphor for accepting obstacles imposed by fate. Knowing that, I trusted that Kintsugi would be band’s chef d’oeuvre.
“I don’t know where to begin…” opens ‘No Room in Frame’ the first track of the album, and it perfectly mirrors my struggle to make a coherent opinion about the album. Having been obsessed with the band’s 2005 Plans, I had great expectations for each subsequent LP. All the tracks from 2008’s Narrow Stairs had unfulfilled potential and Codes and Keys from 2011 sounded like the band was suffering from exhaustion. Henceforth, I listened to Kintsugi with a certain dose of scepticism.
Result: Ben Gibbard’s mesmerizing vocal and over-poeticized lyrics makes the album an experience pleasant above average. As it’s his habit, songs tell stories with lots of different protagonists; special attention must be paid to the opening track with the edged-out narrator (“And we’ll both go on to get lonely with someone else/With someone else”), ‘The Ghosts of Beverley Drive‘, in which the miserable soul goes back to the crime scene looking for clues, and ‘You’ve Haunted Me All My Life‘ that will break your heart just like ‘I Will Follow you Into The Dark‘, from 2005’s Plans did.
Even though you might find yourself re-thinking the purpose of falling in love, which according to Gibbard is nothing but painful, I found the overall experience relaxing and calming. The album combines upbeat tones with wonderfully sad ballads. All of this encompasses Death Cab for Cutie’s indie ambience.
Kintsugi is out now via Atlantic Records.