Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Review: Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs

Label: Atlantic

Released: May 13, 2008

You and I are about to engage in the most intimate act that a critic and a reader can share: the record review. But before the door closes behind us and I lift my shirt to reveal four stars tattooed on my chest, you need to know a secret that will color every word of this review.

You need to know that I love Death Cab for Cutie.

If I had to pick the best band of the past decade, Death Cab would probably be my choice. The 2003 album Transatlanticism is a masterpiece that can connect with a troubled 14-year-old boy as effortlessly as it can reach out to a 40-year-old housewife. 2005's Plans doesn't take as many risks musically, but it's a simple and charming gem.

DCfC albums take a while to sneak up on me, though, and Narrow Stairs is no exception. Death Cab tends to hide little presents in the dark spaces of their music, which makes it difficult to critique their albums after a few quick listens. Sure, I've made some initial observations, like the fact that the band is taking more musical chances and Chris Walla's production is a bit more urgent than usual. This album is obsessed with the failures of uninspired relationships, and though that's not new territory for Death Cab, lyricist Ben Gibbard delves deeper into the subject than he has before.

Death Cab's greatest strength lies in Gibbard's lyrics. The man can take simple words and use them to paint portraits. He's subtle about it, though. Most lyricists beat you over the head with how smart they are, but Gibbard... he just paints the scene and trusts that you'll see it. It takes a brave artist to do that.

Like I said, DCfC albums take a while to sneak up on me. I haven't had this CD long enough to see all of Gibbard's pictures, but I have a pretty good idea they're there. For now, I'll reservedly give it eight out of ten; it's very good, but it doesn't have the broad appeal of their last two records. But ask me again in a few months, and I may tell you it deserves a perfect 10/10. It all depends how many more gifts are hidden in the dark spaces of Narrow Stairs.

Satriani: 6/10
Zappa: 6/10
Dylan: 8/10
Aretha: 8/10
Overall: 8/10



If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.

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Blogger Barbara(aka Layla) said...

I've been playing it over and over since I got it a few days ago. I agree with all you said here. I love them too :)

Lets see your tats!

1:54 PM  

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