Death Cab for Cutie – [Album]

Monday, 20 April 2009

With six studio length albums under its belt, it’s hard to say that Death Cab for Cutie has a typical sound. While the band’s simple songwriting and beautiful instrumentation are constant ingredients, the end product can be as pop and peppy as “No Sunlight” (from Narrow Stairs), or as subdued and brooding as “Transatlanticism” (from Transatlanticism). Not even Ben Gibbard’s distinctive vocals can confine Death Cab to a certain “sound” – quite a feat considering his vocal delivery for The Postal Service yields further different results. The musicians and craftsmen of Death Cab build sounds by the song, but as The Open Door EP shows, it can be difficult to find sonic pieces that fit together. 

Billed as a B-sides collection from last year’s Narrow Stairs album, The Open Door begins with a rollicking vibe on “Little Bribes” that feels like it could have come from a pop country crossover artist channeling The Decemberists. Gibbard’s voice sounds a bit strained on the track, making it hard to appreciate his odd narrative storytelling. But Gibbard’s lyrics aren’t lost on the standout track “My Mirror Speaks,” which contains the line the EP takes its name from (“I always fall in love with an open door”). The cleanly written words and quick pace put it on par with any of the tracks from the Plans album. Similarly, the easy guitar and elegant instrumentation of “A Diamond And A Tether” put it on perfect par with songs like “Cath” and “You Can Do Better,” and the song certainly could have belonged in the Narrow Stairs set.

While the band may not have a “sound,” the last two tracks on The Open Door represent very different points on the Death Cab spectrum. “Talking Bird,” a track that did make Narrow Stairs, is presented here as a Tiny Tim-style demo, though this simple man-and-his-ukulele version doesn’t necessarily add anything not gleaned by the one that did make the cut. “I Was Once a Loyal Lover” moves at a marching pace with an unusual vocal vibrato in places, and while the music is good, the track falls just short of the normal Death Cab polish. If Narrow Stairs catered to Death Cab fans who prefer extended and refined pieces, The Open Door EP gives a snappier glance behind the curtain to see the artists at work.


Death Cab for Cutie – The Open Door EP is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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