October 12, 2015 Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi (Album Review)
Death Cab for Cutie have been titans on the Alternative Indie scene for over a decade and have shown no signs of stopping. Following the departure of their poetic partner in crime, Chris Walla, lead singer Ben Gibbard, bassist Nick Harmer and drummer Jason McGerr have created their newest album, Kintsugi, released March 13, 2015. In Japan, Kintsugi is the art of taking broken ceramic items and putting them back together in a whole new way. This idea can be seen throughout the album in more ways than one, both musically in the band’s recovery after Walla’s departure and personally in Gibbard’s divorce from Zoey Deschanel in 2013. The band has recently commented in interviews that they all had a collaborative say in this record, more than any of the previous eight albums that they have done together in the past. With the help of Atlantic Records, Kintsugi is an attempt to resolve, and like the great art form this album stands for, it is simply trying to find light in the darkness by putting the pieces back together.
The band’s eighth full-length album opens up with the song “No Room in Frame,” an upbeat tune with a dark undertone in the true Death Cab style. Twinkling synth background tones and Harmer’s bass skills drive this track with the lyrics, “Was I in your way when the cameras turned to face you/ No room in frame for two,” highlighting the idea of a lack of balance and commanding the spotlight. From Gibbard’s sincere honesty, he seems to come to terms with his past and is finding creative and musical ways to put it all back together again.
The following track and first single, “Black Sun,” is a dark, brooding piece that recalls a bit of Walla before his departure. Always poetically descriptive in his lyrics, Gibbard’s vocals are clear and imaginative. This tune also has a heavy guitar hook that plays constantly, adding to the ominous mode of this hit. During the break or the bridge, this chaotic piece comes to a clash as it turns into a heavy jam session, following the calm that comes after the storm.
Coming next is another single called “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive,” is an upbeat ditty with a gritty guitar pattern with soothing harmonies. “Little Wanderer” tugs at the heart strings as it talks about long distance, longing and the hope that someone’s loved one returns. This song plays more along the lines of 2005’s Plans with a tinge of sweetness and sense of warmth. The drums have a lighter sound to them as well, yet the point of the song is still driven home by McGerr’s skills.
“You’ve Haunted Me All My Life” and “Hold No Guns” play along a similar line, showing the melancholy and sadness that all humans go through when meeting in the darkest points of a bond that should never be broken. The main difference is that the former takes more of an Electronic path while the latter, in good company with “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” is simply vocals and guitar with Gibbard singing with the most heartfelt sincerity. “Everything’s A Ceiling” is a synth heavy track about the idea of feeling stranded and lonely, seeking someone for comfort and using the ceiling as a symbol for something that cannot be reached. “Good Help (Is So Hard to Find)” is an easy ballad to swing a head to about the overcoming of the grief of lost love and has a very catchy guitar hook that backs up Gibbard’s witty lyrics.
The two tracks thereafter, “El Dorado” and “Ingenue,” also seem to be in the Electronic/Synth arena, showing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. “Binary Sea,” the closing track to Kintsugi, is a vast, spreading tune, reminiscent of 2003’s Transatlanticsm, that talks of a distant love that once existed. It is a great piano Rock ballad that captures the calm vastness of the band’s sound potential.
Death Cab for Cutie will always stand the test of time, for in every year, there will be a new group of fans who find meaning in the honest and yearning lyrics that Gibbard continues to write with every new album. They may tend to stay under the radar in the mainstream world, but as Death Cab fans would want, they cannot see it any other way. Like all of their other albums, Kintsugi, may have moments of melancholy, but it shines in all of the right places. CrypticRock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.