Warner Music Canada

By Zach Fulkerson

Death Cab for Cutie has been hailed as the essential indie rock band. Their albums are the ones that your cool arty friend in high school had found in a small record shop in Kensington Market. Death Cab has also become one of the most marketable acts of the indie rock genre, especially with their 2003 and 2005 breakthroughs, Trasatlanticism and Plans respectively. However, as we reached mid-2010, Death Cab was not as much of a force to be reckoned with during a time where synth rock/pop dominated the airwaves and the web. Their last effort, 2011’s Codes and Keys was not as well received and seemed to lack the honed songwriting skill that frontman Ben Gibbard is known for. It seemed that Death Cab was in a limbo, trying to hold onto their indie roots while filling the expanded role of commercial success.

This brings us to 2015, and the return of Death Cab to the conversation. And this new album, Kintsugi may just be what they need to get them on the tongues of campuses around the world. Interestingly enough, this is the first album to be released after founding guitarist and producer Chris Walla stepped down from the band. He did, however, perform and contribute on the album. This allowed for the band to bring in an outside producer for the first time, and maybe this album’s stronger effort is in part a swan song for Walla and his service.

Listeners who found the last album lacking will be pleasantly surprised in the first samples of Kintsugi, seeing the first single “Black Sun” bookended by strong tracks “No Room In Frame” and “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive.” The latter is a great mix of older Death Cab sounds, harrowing back to something off Plans while still maintaining an evolution in their sound. This track’s chorus is a definite stand out on the album and any fan should be pleasantly surprised with the feel of it.

This album also features some nice ballads that feature Gibbard on the piano swooning as he is accustomed to. The albums closing track “Binary Sea,” features this with some light acoustics and synths creating a sense of floating in the sea reflecting and singing to a lover. This is one of the things that really stands out on the album, a sense of space and atmosphere in the songs, which was really lacking on Death Cab’s last album.

“Everything’s A Ceiling,” is an interesting track, very synth pop oriented, something that is currently very trendy in the indie movement. I’m not convinced that it really works here, not that the song is bad, but it just has a feeling of trying too hard to be in that relevant sound instead of sticking to what they do best.

All in all, this is a solid effort from Death Cab. As a fan who was disappointed in the last album, it’s great to have them come back with some really catchy new songs and an album that I don’t feel I have to constantly skip around to find songs I want to listen to over and over.