Tuesday 22 Jul

Chevy cruisin’

Chevy Woods with Kevin Gates & more
9 p.m. Sunday 
Vibe Night Club 
227 SW 25th St. 

07/16/2014 | Comments 0

Rock steady

7 p.m. Saturday
Frontier City
11501 N. Interstate 35 Service Road 
Free with park admission 

07/16/2014 | Comments 0

Narrative verse

L.T.Z. with Jabee, Frank Black & more
8 p.m. Saturday
The Conservatory 
8911 N. Western Ave. 

07/16/2014 | Comments 0

Dancing in the Twilight

Sunday Twilight Concert Series with The Wurly Birds
7:30 p.m. Sunday
Myriad Botanical Gardens 
301 W. Reno Ave. 

07/16/2014 | Comments 0

Next big thing

As far as songs go, few prove as challenging to sing as our national anthem.

It’s a technically demanding tune from first note to last, to be sure, beginning with a low bellow that quickly soars toward star-punching high notes, eventually swelling to a show-stopping crescendo that even the most seasoned performer can have trouble mastering.

07/09/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Reviews · Indie · Death Cab for Cutie — Codes...

Death Cab for Cutie — Codes and Keys

Indie-poppers' best album since the early 2000s

Stephen Carradini May 26th, 2011

To its benefit and ill, Death Cab for Cutie has never made the same album twice.


The 2003 masterpiece, “Transatlanticism”? A fond memory. The not-so-masterful 2005 release, “Plans”? Also in the back of the band’s mind. While the four-piece continues the trend of not repeating work on “Codes and Keys,” the unit also proves that behind-the-scenes thoughts can influence the stage.

Old-school fans will do a double-take at “Doors Unlocked and Open,” as the track starts off with an extended intro that could have been ripped from “The Photo Album.” The loose, airy song structures of that record play in not only here, but on “Home Is a Fire” and “Unobstructed Views.” The breezy, noncommittal melodies of “Plans” make appearances (on the title track and “Underneath the Sycamore”), while the lyrics and overall mood tend toward the emotional weight of “Transatlanticism.” You can even break down individual tunes into the parts that they learned from other discs. (“St. Peter’s Cathedral” is perfect for that.)

But instead of being a pastiche, this release shows growth. The delicate balance between crescendo and immediacy in “St. Peter’s Cathedral” could not have been pulled off before this. The deftness with which the band ropes the many parts of “Stay Young Go Dancing” into a cohesive 2:50 is the mark of a group hitting its stride.

It helps that Ben Gibbard is on top of his melody-writing game (“Some Boys,” “Doors Unlocked and Open”). Death Cab’s songwriting has arced from spacious indie-pop to tight pop songs and now back, but Gibbard’s melodic incisiveness hasn’t followed that pattern. He’s still just on.

In terms of coverable songs, there’s no “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” These are not quickly consumed nuggets. The set much more follows the mold of “The Photo Album” or “We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes”; this is a collection to be experienced, mulled over and integrated into your life. For that alone, old-school fans should be giddy.

Funny note: The title track is the worst song on the album, as it sounds too much like the aimless moments of “Plans.” Ew. But there’s not another number here that is skip-worthy; every other tune has musical layers that reward multiple listens.

Although it’s yet again a new chapter in the Death Cab sound, “Codes and Keys” will not receive the cold reception that 2008’s “Narrow Stairs” did, because the songs are way better. It’s easily the best complete Death Cab record since “Transatlanticism.” You can draw your own conclusions as to where it fits in your own personal DCFC hierarchy, but it’s worth talking about in the top tier, surely. —Stephen Carradini
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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05.31.2011 at 02:00 Reply

Pleased to see this publication is among those with featured reviews of the new Death Cab for Cutie release.  As a longtime fan I am eager to collect as many narratives as I can in anticipation of purchasing "Codes and Keys."  Elsewhere critics have said this outing is one of the most cohesive since "Transatlanticism," so the material must be of considerable emotional heft.  Overall a pretty glancing review, here, incorporating the sound of the band's catalog up until now. The author seems to also be a fan of some recordings but not others.  Fair enough, that's to be expected.  I am more perplexed by the band's "indie-popper" categorization (and I love indiepop, btw).  If anything, Death Cab is an indie rock band despite the now major label affiliation.  Maybe a niggling critcism but as a critic myself and longtime listener of all types of music, the pairing does not fit. When, if ever, has DCFC been even passingly twee, afterall?