There aren’t many bands quite like Death Cab For Cutie. While their existence to some might not expand much further than a fleeting mention to prove the indie credentials of The O.C., scratching away at the surface of indie’s oft-maligned mopesters reveals a wonderfully rich musical tapestry.
From the straightforward, lo-fi emo of debut record ‘Something About Airplanes’, right through to the warped musicianship of their more experimental side on ‘Narrow Stairs’ and ‘Codes and Keys’, each of Death Cab’s forays reveals a deeper pool of artistry and emotion from which to siphon your next Valentine’s card note or woeful break-up text.
Now, four years after the release of their last record and eighteen into a seemingly timeless career, the Washington-state group are gearing for up the release of eighth studio album ‘Kintsugi’ on March 30th. With that in mind, DIY’s looking ahead to what will surely be one of the year’s defining records.
Here’s why we’re getting excited about ‘Kintsugi’.
No more getting gooey over Zooey
Death Cab’s last record, 2011’s ‘Codes and Keys’, found the band at a bit of a stalemate. For a group whose songwriting to date had been built on melancholy and heartbreak, finding frontman Ben Gibbard in an overwhelmingly loving marriage with actress and indie megastar Zooey Deschanel stuck them at one hell of a crossroads. ‘Codes and Keys’ retained the band’s critical acclaim, but it also saw certain corners of their fanbase dejected, the folorn misanthropes of Death Cab’s audience unable to empathise with tracks like ‘Stay Young, Go Dancing’ – a song about falling in love and marrying the girl that, undoubtedly, half of said fanbase had papered their walls with. “I would be remiss if I continued writing in a solely melancholic voice,” admitted Gibbard in the run up to the album’s release, “given the fact that I’m now a married man.”
Sadly for Ben, however, it didn’t last. The couple separated in November 2011 – just five months after ‘Codes and Keys’’ release – and filed for divorce over “irreconcilable differences” just a matter of weeks later. Those differences have yet to be elaborated upon, but it’s fair to say there may still be some bad blood - just twenty-four hours after Death Cab announced the long-awaited details of ‘Kintsugi’’s release, Zooey revealed to the press that she was expected her first child. Unfortunate coincidence or not, that was undoubtedly a bit of a sucker punch for Gibbard.
The somewhat selfish light at the end of the tunnel, of course, is that this very heartbreak is sure to have inspired ‘Kintsugi’’s lyrical content. Cruel though it may sound, in the eyes of the Death Cab devoted, a sad Ben is a good Ben.
Walla way to go
Unfortunately for Ben, that wasn’t the sole break-up he was dragged through as ‘Kintsugi’ came to fruition, with guitarist, founding member, principal songwriter and sole producer to date of Death Cab’s discography Chris Walla formally announcing his departure from the band in August 2014, after 17 years at its helm. A tearful final performance with Walla (above) confirmed just how gut-wrenching the parting was.
Said split will undoubtedly offer up further influence on ‘Kintsugi’, with it marking Walla’s final record with Death Cab. It even inspired the album’s title: speaking to Rolling Stone last week as they announced the record, bassist Nick Harmer revealed that ‘Kintsugi’ is named after “a Japanese style of art where they take fractured, broken ceramics and put them back together with very obvious, real gold. It’s making the repair of an object a visual part of its history. That resonated with us as a philosophy, and it connected to a lot of what we were going through, both professionally and personally.” It certainly sounds like the heartbreak is back.
Desk Job for Cutie
It’s not all doom and gloom though, before you run off to sob in the shower with ‘Transatlanticism’ on repeat. Walla’s first step away from the producer’s desk has allowed Death Cab to open up the position to an outsider for the first time – in this case, Rich Costey, who cites Sigur Rós, Muse and Nine Inch Nails amongst his CV of rock’s grandest achievements.
“Rich was the kind of guy who will tell you ‘Yeah, that’s not working; you guys have to come up with something else,’” enthused Gibbard late last year, “And that really united us. We were united by the idea of ‘Look, we want to make a really good record.’” As a result, ‘Kintsugi’ seems set to showcase a Death Cab at the height of their creative prowess and focus.
Gibbard’s scratches have been itched
Their time away has been crammed full of other musical endeavours too, so with those out of the way that focus is sure to present Death Cab at their purest. Gibbard in particular has been a whirlwind of productivity, with his predominantly acoustic solo record ‘Former Lives’ finally seeing release in 2012, and his lauded side-project (with Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel) The Postal Service embarking on a short-lived reunion tour throughout 2013 (above), marking the final nail in the coffin of the electronica masterpiece that was their sole album ‘Give Up’.
With this in mind, those niggling thoughts at the back of Gibbard’s mind have surely finally been laid to rest. His un-homed creative urges have finally found a bed (parts of ‘Former Lives’ had been knocking around for a decade), and as such his sole creative outlet has been ‘Kintsugi’. As a result, it seems sure to present Gibbard’s renowned musicianship at its most fine-tuned.
And the first glimpse may not be so far away
Which brings up neatly back to the present day. Just a few short days after ‘Kintsugi’’s announcement, Death Cab revealed that a lyric sheet to its first single, ‘Black Sun’, had been chopped up and posted around the world to unsuspecting Death Cab fans.
Piecing it together bit by bit via Instagram posts, said fans have been inching ever closer to the full sheet of lyrics. When it’s complete, who’s to say what the final reveal will be. Our bet’s on the ‘surprise’ release of the single. Go check the post, will ya?
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