There has been a progressively longer gap between the releases of each of Death Cab For Cutie’s seven studio albums. The band launched “Narrow Stairs” in 2008, three years after “Plans,” and after another three year break, the band’s “Codes and Keys” hits shelves. The biggest change that the gap brought was in mood.
“Narrow Stairs” was a downer, with vocalist Ben Gibbard being hard on himself. Now, having married actress/singer Zooey Deschanel, Gibbard is feeling a bit more upbeat. The title of the album’s closing track, “Stay Young, Go Dancing” fits the theme right on. Granted, Gibbard’s voice is still airy and the band still plays relaxed, but the atmosphere is one of optimism.
One point that Gibbard and company have emphasized during the recording of the album was their hope to veer away from music centered on guitars. This doesn’t seem like to much of a challenge for Death Cab, which was never exactly the Guns N’ Roses anyhow, but a healthy portion of the songs focus on the piano, such as the title track and “Portable Television.” Don’t worry; by piano-focused, I don’t mean Billy Joel. Parts like the long introduction to “Unobstructed Views” are contemplative and easygoing.
The best two tracks on the record don’t shy away from six-strings however. The single “You Are a Tourist” is a lively visit to the theme of hometown boredom and it’s based around the playing of guitarist Chris Walla. Preceding it is “Doors Unlocked and Open,” which is similar in style, but even more upbeat.
Death Cab for Cutie has never been as dour as its title suggests, but “Codes and Keys” is a snapshot of a band comfortable, nay, happy with its success in the alternative rock world.