A Slice of Fried Gold

You Can't See Your Dream

Monday, May 5, 2008

It seems as if every month is bringing a new legitimate album of the year contender. January and February brought Vampire Weekend and Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground's debuts, we skipped a month in March, and April brought us Tokyo Police Club and Flight of the Conchord's lead off LP's. All these newbies are totally showing up the wily veterans throughout the year.

Come May 13th though, all four of those neophytes are in some serious trouble. Why?

Death Cab for Cutie releases their sixth studio album Narrow Stairs that day (I don't count You Can Play These Songs With Chords), and it is absolutely the best album released so far this year.

As much as I love those other releases, this is Death Cab's best and most balanced album yet. This is coming from someone who loves the band, as they've put out some of my all-time favorite releases and would have to be considered one of my "favorite bands." From Something About Planes all the way to their most recent release Plans, I've loved all their albums (although I did get a late start, I didn't start listening to them until a little bit before 2003's Transatlanticism).

Death Cab for Cutie

With all that said, so far I've only announced that this is their best album yet. Why is it?

This album has the best balance of any of their full lengths to date. It's the most varied album they've ever released and it ends up coming up as the perfect mixture between the more guitar based rock of earlier albums like the Photo Album and the weighty piano ballads that frequented Plans. You listen to songs like "Bixby Canyon Bridge" or "Pity and Fear" and you start to think "man, these guys are really rocking!"

Honestly, when was the last time you ever listened to a song by Death Cab and thought that?

With that said, songs like "The Ice is Getting Thinner" and "Grapevine Fires" bring the ballads back into the picture. I'm not sure if this is due to the superior balance or the fact that these songs are simply better, but the emotional weight packed by these tracks cannot be underlined enough. Heartfelt, beautiful, haunting - these are recent year Death Cab at their best.

Then there are little curveballs within the album, like first single "I Will Possess Your Heart" and it's four and a half minute Ben Gibbard-less intro (Chris Walla kills it on this track with his brilliant bass line) or its' direct opposite track, minute and fifty nine second long showstopper "You Can Do Better Than Me." As of yet, that is my favorite track as it feels like a Thomas Newman composed track with Ben Gibbard laying in gorgeously triumphant and soulful lyrics on top of it.

As Gibbard croons out lyrics like "There's times I think of leaving, but it's something I'll never do/Because you can do better than me, but I can't do better than you," your heart simply breaks and you just want to reach into the music and say "no we can't Ben. No we can't."

I've listened to this album eight times through in the last day, and before this week is out I bet I listen to it at least eight times more. It gets better every time, just like Death Cab does.

Good luck music world, there's a new king on the throne. This one is going to be pretty hard to unseat. Can't wait to see them at Sasquatch!


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