Wednesday, May 14, 2008

ALBUM: I'd have done the same as you

In reading the blogosphere's responses to Death Cab for Cutie's new album, Narrow Stairs (out yesterday), I've noticed a lot of comments like "it has to be better than Plans" or "gratefully not another Plans", or other similar sentiments.

I had to stop and think for a bit, because I loved 2005's Plans, and it had never really occurred to me to think of it as anything less than a fantastic record. It gave me pause to think about all of the things that I love about this band; the reasons that I keep coming back to them. Things like Ben's intricate and endlessly relatable lyrics, the creative guitar-work, the often counter-intuitive drumming, and their over-all ability to weave deep, textured songs from seemingly simple pop beginnings. Though admittedly more polished than their prior releases, Plans had all of these things in spades - and so I still stand by my love for that album.

Now comes Narrow Stairs, and we see a step backward from that "more polished" sound - but all the things I love are still there. The album is rough around the edges, as is evident from the pounding chords that catapult the first track, Bixby Canyon Bridge from its atmospheric intro to its fuzzed out climax.

The first single, I Will Possess Your Heart, is perfect in my opinion - a sprawling sound-scape built around a repeated progression comparable to Transatlanticism's title track or Different Names for the Same Thing, just flipped on their heads. Cath... and Your New Twin Sized Bed showcase the heartbreaking lyricism I love so much, while returning to a sound that is more comparable to The Photo Album than anything since.

The one real surprise is You Can Do Better Than Me, a Pet Sounds nod to California-pop with its reverb-y drums and 60's organs swirling. And it turns out that what could have been a miss-step for many is quite a pleasant surprise here - with vintage Benjamin lyrics like "my old clothes don't fit like they once did / so they hang like ghosts of the people I've been".

But aside from all of this picking apart, music is all about what it does to you - about those moments when you feel like you couldn't explain a feeling or a thought better than those notes just did. And since picking up Narrow Stairs I've had several of those moments, the ones that make me grateful for music.

Just to end here's an interesting thought from an essay Ben Gibbard wrote for Paste Magazine. I think it gives a good insight into the songs that appear on Narrow Stairs (Read the whole thing here):

"An ex-girlfriend once got upset when I told her that music is the most important thing in my life. It's more important than anyone else could ever be. I don't want to be overly dramatic and say it's the only thing that gets me up and keeps me going. But people in your life come and go. As you go through your life, you make friendships, you break friendships, you have relationships. Music is the one thing I've always been able to rely on. So why wouldn't it be the most important thing in my life?"

from the album Narrow Stairs (Amazon/iTunes)

1 comment:

jon & jill said...

i am a HUGE fan of 'plans.' (and not just because it is reminiscent of our entire first month of dating). i have already immersed myself in the lyrics of narrow stairs. i can tell already it's going to be a keeper. i am in love with ben. ok, and jon too.