Ben Gibbard and company crafted an almost perfect album when they produced Transatlanticism in 2003. They had spent four albums perfecting their sound and this album was the culmination of all that hard work. Rightfully so, they gained many, many new fans and were firmly placed on the indie music map. But coming down from that mountain, the band found many valleys. Their next 3 albums were, sadly, rather forgettable. Sure they had some good songs pop up here and there, but as a whole this period felt like wheel spinning.
Then last year, it was announced that long-time member and producer Chris Walla was leaving the band. Walla’s influence was 2nd only to Gibbard’s in the band and his departure would no-doubt mean the sound would change. Also last year, Gibbard underwent some serious life changes: divorcing Zooey Deschanel and getting sober. It seemed likely that his lyrics would reflect these changes as well.
So four years after their last album, Codes and Keys, Death Cab is releasing their 9th LP (wow, 9th?!): Kintsugi. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery in a way that doesn’t hide the cracks but embraces them as part of the art. It was clear that the band was treating this album as a sort of re-birth after fracturing a bit with Walla’s departure.
The band has offered a few songs as evidence of what the new album will be like and I’ve got to say, I’m excited about the direction they seem to be taking here.
Black Sun is a somber song with lots of churning sound and an honest to goodness guitar solo.
No Room in Frame is the album’s opening track and features a good beat and some vintage Death Cab guitar riffs.
Ghosts of Beverly Drive is probably my favorite track so far, a driving (ha) tune with thumping chords.
Finally, this week brought us Little Wanderer, a song that falls into one of Gibbard’s favorite lyrical categories – separation blues. In fact, Gibbard said in an interview that this may be his favorite song on the new record.
So these four advance tracks comprise the first four tracks on the album itself and spread themselves across the spectrum of Death Cab’s style. But they don’t feel stale like some of their more recent work has. They suggest the band is getting back to basics a bit in the absence of Walla. If anything, these songs suggest a return to a more guitar-forward taste profile, which many fans would welcome heartily.
Kintsugi will release on March 31st on Atlantic Records.
UPDATE: The entire album is now streaming on NPR for your review!