A year ago, most people around here had not heard of Death Cab For Cutie. Once an almost unheard of indie rock band signed to an almost unheard of label (Barsuk Records), Death Cab For Cutie has risen and become more mainstream in recent months. After the amazing We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes in 2000 and the ground-breaking Transatlanticism in 2003, Death Cab’s August 30th release of their 5th album, Plans, did not disappoint fans; Death Cab For Cutie are as strong as ever.
The album’s first track, “Marching Bands of Manhattan,"to be quite frank, is not worth listening to, unless you really, really, really, like Death Cab. At first you have to make sure you have the volume up, because it is completely silent for five seconds or so, then after that, it’s nothing special.
The second track, which is also the first single off the album, is a great song. “Soul Meets Body" sounds quite like R.E.M. and uses a mandolin. How many bands today can say they use a mandolin? Not many, which is one of the reasons Death Cab is such a great band. This song is actually happy and not depressing, which is rather out of character for Death Cab (many people consider Death Cab to be “emo"). It is a great song to choose as a single for the album, but it doesn’t really convey what the album will be like since this song is so much different from the others.
“Summer Skin" has a depressing sound, but the lyrics in the song are pretty uplifting. The song is about doing whatever, just having fun in the summer; definitely one of the best on the album.
After the first three tracks, the album starts to get depressing. Piano-laden songs like “Different Names for the Same Thing" have Ben Gibbard singing even higher than normal (which is saying something if you’ve ever heard Gibbard sing). “I Will Follow You into the Dark" is my favorite song on the album. Except for a very soft guitar in the background (played by Chris Walla), Gibbard is singing the song akapela. It is a love song about being completely devoted to someone else.
“Your Heart Is an Empty Room" is another mellow, melancholy song with a fair amount of piano. A good song, give it a listen. “Crooked Teeth" is one of the best songs on Plans, the lyrics are just awesome: “I built you a home in my heart with love, with rotten wood, it decayed from the start", is just a sampling of the great lyrics in the song. There is also a female back-up singer, which adds a great touch to the song.
“What Sarah Said," yet another song heavy on the piano, is a little longer than the other songs, coming in just under 6:30 long. This song is without a doubt the most depressing song on the album, it’s about dying and there is no way to describe it, it’s something you have to listen to yourself. “Brothers on a Hotel Bed" has a large amount of piano in it, but the main beat of the song rests in the percussion instruments. The introduction to the song is about 1:30, then after the extended introduction Gibbard’s intelligent, moving lyrics carry the song until the end. “Brothers on a Hotel Bed" is a slow song, but a great one nonetheless. “Stable Song" is the slowest song on the album, and it is my least favorite song on the CD. Go ahead and skip right over this one.
Death Cab For Cutie is a rising band and their 5th album shows their true talent. Their music is without a doubt much better than a lot of the mainstream garbage out there (i.e. Good Charlotte, Green Day, Simple Plan, etc). Look out for this band in coming months to be getting more airplay, and, if you can get tickets, go see them in Chicago or Ann Arbor in October. If you like Plans, check out Transatlanticism and We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes, they are just as good, if not better, than Plans.