August 17, 2018 Death Cab For Cutie – Thank You For Today (Album Review)
Death Cab For Cutie’s power has always been found in quiet moments. As the band has now eclipsed twenty years together and are poised to release their ninth album, Thank You For Today, into the world on Friday, August 17th via Atlantic Records, Vocalist Ben Gibbard has seemed to shift the band’s sound to focus on feeling, preferring more mellow melodies to back reflective lyrics.
The band’s first album without any input from founding member Chris Walla, Thank You For Today is ten tracks that find their energy by holding a mirror to the dangers of nostalgia and casting a bright eye to the future.
While still distinctly a Death Cab album, powered by Gibbard’s unmistakable voice and touching lyrics, this new effort somehow feels different. Following up 2015’s excellent Kintsugi, which chronicled the fallout following a divorce, Thank You For Today mulls over a long life lived and the harsh reality that things can never be the way they used to be.
Leading in with the lo-fi and jangly “I Dreamt We Spoke Again,” Death Cab channels a bit of Broken Social Scene with a myriad of layered sounds. This opener sets the tone for what follows, with lyrics ruminating on a past relationship. Soft and subtle, “I Dreamt We Spoke Again” is a gentle tug into “Summer Years,” easily one of this album’s shining gems. “Summer Years” shares a number of characteristics with the most gut-punching tracks off Transatlanticism, the band’s seminal 2003 record. Starting off with an upbeat, bright guitar melody, the song gradually piles on guitar layers, building to a dark, fuzzy bridge that drives home Gibbard’s wise lyrics: “As we’re walking lines in parallel / That will never meet and it’s just as well.”
A distinct sonic change from “Summer Years” is the album’s twanging lead single “Gold Rush.” More in common with Beck than a traditional Death Cab outfit, “Gold Rush” is an insanely catchy reflection on an ever-changing world. Easily one of the most bouncing tracks on the album, save for the achingly bright “Autumn Love” or the picturesque “Northern Lights” (which finds some help from CHVRCHES vocalist Lauren Mayberry), “Gold Rush” helps to bookend the album’s more subtle offerings like “When We Drive” and “You Moved Away.”
However, Thank You For Today’s most gutting track might be its most simple. Closer “60 & Punk,” a piano-driven chronicle of idolization and a poignant reflection of an aging musician clinging to the past as Gibbard intones, “There’s nothing elegant in being a drunk / There’s nothing righteous being sixty and a punk.”
Thank You For Today is the distinct product of decades of experience: reflecting on the past, struggling to live with the moment, and change along with the world or be left forgotten. As thoughtful as Death Cab has ever been, Gibbard still knows how to strike a deep, meaningful chord within his listeners, particularly those who have grown up along with band. With few dull moments, and songs like “Summer Years” and “60 & Punk” sure to end up among the band’s most memorable, Thank You For Today has instantly crawled its way toward the top of the band’s already shining discography. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.