Friday, 20 June 2008

Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs (2008)

"I descended down a dusty gravel ridge", the opening line which leads us into DCFC's 7th release, Narrow Stairs. The album, mixed by guitarist Chris Walla, is their first in one continuous mix and so the descent seems entirely appropriate for an album best listened to in it's entirety.

The opener "Bixby Canyon Bridge" is a slow burner, which builds and builds before exploding and then fizzing out with the electrifying guitar work at the end. It then leads on to the first single, which has been both lambasted and applauded by fans and critics. Whatever your thoughts on the 4 minute introduction, it is no doubt that the band have taken a brave step and this really is no "Sound of Settling", the hit present on every OC fans iPod. For the record, I love this song and I see the introduction as completely integral, especially when it is all build up for possibly the best lyric of the year;

"How I wish you could see the potential, the potential of you and me
It's like a book elegantly bound, but in a language that you can't read"

After the indulgences of the first two songs we then have some more typical rock tracks, but these are by no means throw aways. Not only are songs like "Long Division", "No Sunlight" and "Cath..." very integral on record, they are songs that should translate brilliantly into the bands live set. "Cath..." in particular is as catchy as a pop song can be, while still maintaining enough interesting instrumentation to sound fresh. The gentle riff at the start gives way to a more staccato rhythm as the song develops and the transitions between light and soft are simply beautiful. The Death Cab live set has been one part of the bands arsenal that has often been criticised, especially after 2006's gentle Plans which, while critically acclaimed, struggled to win over all spectators on tour. However, even after the first three songs on Narrow Stairs I already find myself clambering for a chance to see the band.

Of course, DCFC aren't always about rocking out and it has often been Gibbard's softer efforts that have found their ways into fans hearts the world over. "Grapevine Fires" begins with a relaxed drum beat before meeting equally inclined instrumentation, a brooding organ, the perfect foil to Gibbard's harmony. It is another reminder that the band really have decided to experiment more, especially as this song touches very dangerously on AOR while still just managing to remain different enough and totally listenable.

It is in no question that the band have changed on this record. There are new sounds, ideas and attitudes conveyed in the 44minutes and 50 seconds, all well tied together by the bands ability to write and perform top quality alt-rock songs. Lyrically, you could write another review on Gibbard alone as he writes from other perspectives, "Your New Twin Sized Bed", and takes inspiration from literature such as Kerouac on "Bixby Canyon Bridge", while of course taking much of his own inspiration as well. The band tie together exactly how you would expect one of 10+ years experience to do so with Walla's razor sharp guitar cutting through the mix at the most important times, and the rhythm section both experimental, tight and often, a necessary part of the melody (see the Single!).

Death Cab For Cutie - "Cath..."

Death Cab For Cutie - "Grapevine Fires"



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You got an awesome taste in music and I will definitely start following your blog. I love the Narrow Stairs album and your review was spot-on in my eyes.

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