Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs

Maybe this brings me back to being on the precipice of new releases. Death Cab for Cutie return today with their follow-up to their Grammy-nominated major label debut Plans (2005) called Narrow Stairs. If you're not familiar with "Death Cab" by name you've probably heard of lead singer Ben Gibbard's side project The Postal Service. Either way, the band is back to prove indie bands can be just as credible on major labels. The other closest competition would seem to be The Decemberists, but they haven't put out a follow-up. So, this will be a lesson to see the lay of the land is shaking up. With the might (money) and prowess (advertising) of a major label they are expected to rake in the dollars for their parent company. It must be a hard juggling act for the band since they need to make money but they also need to appeal to their hardcore fans which care much more about the music than how many copies are sold. In addition, the major label would to attract casual listeners who may decide that they like what they hear.

Thankfully, Death Cab doesn't try too hard on this album to reinvent the wheel or grasp at the things that made Plans such a huge hit. While not the runaway great album, Narrow Stairs is a fine listen for a band that is now mature in itself. They know what they do well, and pretty much stick to those things. For example, this album is on the dark side but entirely self-assured. They are still trying to speak to listeners hearts and pull on those strings. Topics of interest are growth and change and how being content may never occur no matter what - not even if you're a rock star, quit your crappy job, or find true love. Some songs are poppier than others, but even those they tend to get right by going with their instincts. Overall, this new album is pretty solid, but less inspired than Plans. It's certainly worth a listen and is sure to keep fans satisfied, but it may not bring in many new ones or convince haters to jump on the bandwagon.

Death Cab for Cutie (Narrow Stairs) - "No Sunlight"

UPDATE: Death Cab on Letterman below

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