Album Review: Death Cab For Cutie – “Codes and Keys”

Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie:

When I heard that Death Cab for Cutie was releasing a new album entitled Codes and Keys, I was really excited. Death Cab has been one of my favorite bands for a long time now, and their last album Narrow Stairs was outstanding. This new album is just as good, if not better than their last one.

What really draws me to listen to Death Cab is the combination of excellent songwriting and excellent musical production. Ben Gibbard, the primary songwriter, knows how to craft melodies that are both catchy and memorable, but also don’t sound like the typical top 40 song. This album is no exception. His melodies tend to build slowly upon themselves, slowly drawing you into each song rather than hitting you in the face from the first note. The first song on the album, “Home Is A Fire”, is a great example. Unlike most top 40 songs, this song doesn’t start at full speed, with an immediately singable melody. Rather, as the song progresses, the very creative melody becomes more clear, so that by the end of the song you are able to sing along.

Like the melodies, the musical production of this album is outstanding. The thing that I appreciate most about Death Cab is their ability to build slowly. Each verse tends to add more musical layers, and yet none of the songs feel overproduced. One of my biggest pet peeves with much of today’s music is that it feels overproduced, with multiple layers of vocals, guitars, and synthesizers. The second song on this album, “Codes and Keys”, is a great example of the slow layering that Death Cab achieves. The song starts with just the piano and the drums. By the end of the song you’ve got a strings background, drums, acoustic guitar, piano, and vocals. It feels full without feeling too busy.

Death Cab For Cutie is not a Christian band, which means that their lyrics reflect the cultural norms of today. For example, the song “Unobstructed Views” communicates the atheism/relativism that is so prevalent in our culture:

There’s no eye in the sky

Just our love

No unobstructed view, no perfect truth

Just our love, just our love

Codes and Keys is one of my favorite albums of recent months, and I recommend it for the musical quality and excellent songwriting.

You can get the album here.

Comments

  1. says

    I like their production, but with bands who self-produce, perhaps that can't be separated from songwriting – in a sense, the production is an extension of the songwriting. That said, I heartily agree that both songwriting and production are remarkable. I haven't been keeping up since Narrow Stairs; I guess I'll get this one too. I can always use some instruction. =)

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