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Bed Gibbard’s much-loved indie stalwarts return with their seventh album.
Seven studio albums and 14 years in, Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard appears to be a very differentindividual these days. For one, it’s hard to imagine that Mr Zooey Deschanel has a great deal of melancholia to channel in the songwriting process. Whereas Gibbard’s lyrics often used to feel like the thoughtful, wry observations of a wallflower, he admits: "I would be remiss if I tried to continue writing in a solely melancholic voice… now I'm a married man."
Though Gibbard’s distaste for Los Angeles was once so strong that it motivated him to pen a wonderfully barbed lyric about it, he now calls the City Of Angels his home. Similarly, his band have put significant mileage between their lo-fi beginnings in Bellingham, WA and their new world of Grammy nominations and mainstream radiorotation.
DCFC’s third major label album, Codes And Keys, has much more in common with 2005’s Plans than 2008’s warm-blooded Narrow Stairs in that it feels like a record born in the production and editing process. Rather than documenting a group of musicians pounding away in a room together, Codes... sees guitarist/producer Chris Walla finding sonic inspiration in Eno, vintage synths, New Order, Low-era Bowie and LCD Soundsystem. Meanwhile, for the most part Gibbardsteps backfrom the tiny details that characterised his earlier songs and deals withmore universal themes.
Make no mistake though, this is definitely pop music and there is no shortage of emotive melody, most notably in the lovely, piano-driven title track. Some fans will yearn for the more guitar-heavy sound of the band’s indie days on Barsuk, but at the very least, Death Cab For Cutie have found a way to grow and evolve gracefully as a major label concern. Chris Vinnicombe