Review Summary: A spectacular companion piece to The Photo Album that stands tall as one of Death Cab For Cutie’s finest releases.
No matter how many times I listen to it, there’s something about the focused precision and emotional depth of The Stability EP that never fails to put me into a trance. From the icy guitar tones of 20th Century Towers to the earnestly beautiful crescendo of the Björk cover All Is Full of Love to the hypnotic lulling close of the title track, the EP feels like a singular, unified entity through and through, maintaining a consistent atmosphere that is as colourful as it is bleak. It’s nearly impossible to listen to any of these tracks on their own: once you’re drawn into the subtle undertones that make this EP incredible, you absolutely have to see it through to the end, almost as though you have no choice in the matter.
All three of these tracks can be counted among the finest of Death Cab For Cutie's entire career and stand as solemn epitaphs to the dark honesty that marked their earlier releases and made them exceptional. After this release, Ben Gibbard’s lyrics would become considerably more playful and light-hearted and the music itself would follow suit. While that is certainly not necessarily a bad thing, it definitely did strip the band’s later releases of the intrigue of the earlier ones; it will always be the demo, the first three albums and the first two EPs that I return to, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
As a musical extension to the band’s previous release, The Photo Album, the EP works just about flawlessly. While that album ended with a glimmer of hope followed by a haunting dissonant conclusion that suggested disappointment and failure, 20th Century Towers completely confirms and embodies that final sentiment. The final line of the song, starting with the heart-wrenching full band bellow of ALL AROUND, is easily the most masterfully executed and emotional line that Ben Gibbard ever penned, and chills will continue to go down my spine every time I hear the song reach its conclusion. The rest of the EP continues with the dark and emotional atmosphere established throughout The Photo Album and 20th Century Towers, and the two releases side by side couldn’t work better together as a whole.
The only flaw that really comes to mind when thinking about this release is the fact that the title track’s extended ending goes on for a tad too long, and even that criticism is extremely minor and specific. After all, the repeating guitar line itself is nothing short of a masterstroke, echoing Gibbard’s final line, “I don’t mind’, tastefully and in a way that, for the most part, proves to be incredibly moving. In an case, the length of the final track is an easily forgiven flaw given the consistently powerful execution of the rest of the EP; as a testament to a talented band’s forgotten legacy and as a companion piece to one of their finest albums, The Stability EP is an absolutely essential piece of Death Cab’s history.