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Death Cab grows with ‘Codes and Keys’

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In today’s current music climate it is difficult to find a mainstream act whose career is void of controversy, internal turmoil or celebrity gossip. Enter Death Cab for Cutie, the Bellingham, Washington four-piece with over 12 years and seven studio releases under their belts — and no scandalous rumors to speak of, only a solid, successful run in the music business.

It would seem their growing popularity stems from equal parts musical talent and “nice guy” appeal. In other words, Death Cab is the exact opposite of typical rock or pop stars.

In a recent interview with NPR, Death Cab’s singer Ben Gibbard, expressed his appreciation for the level of success the band has reached.

“I know we all feel incredibly grateful this band is able to have the life that it’s had,” Gibbard said.

With their seventh studio release, “Codes and Keys,” the band manages to lighten their mood while still exhibiting the heart-on-sleeve emotionality that has won over so many fans.

“You Are a Tourist,” the album’s first single explodes with 90’s pop riffing and sparkling guitars so accessible that all types of music fans will be unable to resist its catchiness. The band’s drummer, Jason McGerr, and bassist, Nick Harmer, provide a solid rhythm section, subtly adding a complex pulse lying underneath the colorful, undeniable melodies that pop out at the listener.

The remaining member of Death Cab and its guitarist/producer Chris Walla, reaches a new peak in his production skills on “Codes and Keys.” With the use of ambient, moody tones resting low in the background of the mix, Walla stays true to the band’s sentimental, somber nature while easing long time listeners into a fresh, more upbeat sound.

New to the band’s repertoire is the use of strings, beefing up the sound and upping the romantic spirit found in a few songs on the album.

“Stay Young, Go Dancing” combines folksy guitar strumming and orchestral pageantry, creating a passionate, soulful ode to love. Gibbard only accentuates the charming, swaying song when singing, “cause when she sings I hear a symphony / and I’m swallowed in sound as it echoes through me.” If there were anything to complain about the song, it would be that it is far too short at just two minutes, 50 seconds.

Still, there are fan complaints that Death Cab has lost their indie credibility since signing to major label Atlantic Records, three albums ago.

While it is true that Death Cab’s first four albums might never be topped as sentimental favorites for many fans, it cannot be understated that with each album the band has grown in leaps and bounds as far as maturity is concerned.

From lyrical and songwriting expertise Gibbard has honed, to what may be the most technically talented rhythm section in rock, Death Cab is one of the most professional, consistent and unique bands mainstream music has seen in many years.

 

4/5 stars

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