Death Cab for Cutie’s latest release and eighth studio album, Kintsugi, is quite simply a solid album. The band returns to a sound more similar to that of Plans and that of their previous experimental albums, keeping things exciting but thoroughly sticking to the musical style that has worked for them since the early 2000s.


Death Cab for Cutie

Whereas the band used lots of ’80s alternative keyboard for their last album, Codes and Keys, Kintsugi shies away from this, allowing lead guitarist Chris Walla’s smooth and dreamy playing style to return to the spotlight. This may be because Walla, an original member recruited by lead singer Ben Gibbard, decided that this will be his last recording with Death Cab. Though Walla played the keyboard for Codes and Keys, he’s traditionally done guitar for the band, so a return to an indie-rock sound over alternative may be a tribute to this integral member’s last outing with the group.

The album opens with four singles that have been released throughout the year, including “No Room In Frame” and “Ghosts of Beverly Drive,” both of which have a firmly staccato beat but manage to still feel mellow in Death Cab’s characteristic way.

Another of these first four is “Black Sun,” which is a little bit of an outlier. This one seems like it tries to go for a certain mysteriously sexy sound that honestly reminds me of something out of a James Bond movie (not that we all don’t love 007), as Gibbard sings of a tempting and toxic love. Needless to say, this one diverges from the band’s usually lyrically emotive sound.

However, the last of the first four singles released, sounds very thoroughly Death Cab. “Little Wanderer” is much more melancholy in tone and reflective in meaning, where the singer’s lost love is somewhere abroad, leaving him asking, “Won’t you wander back to me?”

That sounds sappy, but this is Death Cab and that’s why we love their music. Keeping in the same tone are “You’ve Haunted Me All Your Life” and “Hold No Guns,” both very mellow and relaxing. These two are especially reminiscent of Plans, with heavy emphasis on Gibbard’s vocals, the over-elongated vowels and over-emphasized consonants which, when paired with echoing guitar and a subtle snare drum beat, somehow sound prophetic and allowing the music to speak to the most sappy and emotional realms of your music-listening faculties.

The album picks up with the next two tracks, but concludes with “Binary Sea,” which is as dreamy and mellow as a Death Cab fan could ask for. Without such a heavy emphasis on guitar, this last track features echoing vocals, piano and soft techno elements. If the last song on the album had a color, it would be a soft, light blue-green. Serene, peaceful and reflective, it’s a great conclusion for Walla.

All things considered, this album isn’t anything that diverges dramatically from the band’s previously explored styles. It successfully incorporates some of the darker themes explored in Narrow Stairs, as well as some more 80s alternative keyboard sounds explored in Codes and Keys, while somehow coming off as closer to the sound that originally brought them to the spotlight with Transatlanticism. There’s nothing too crazy going on here; just some good music to see out a longtime band member.

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