Album Review: Death Cab For Cutie - 'Kintsugi'

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Ben Gibbard, the driving force behind Death Cab For Cutie has been mining a literate, sensitive style of songwriting for years.

Even during his happy days being in a relationship with the talented Zooey Deschanel, he somehow knew the end was inevitable.

Gibbard suffered another breakup last year when founding member and producer Chris Walla announced his exit from the band weeks after the completion of Death Cab's new album "Kintsugi." The album title references the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery which is also a philosophy where repair to something (physically and emotionally) is treated as part of it's history and not something to hide or disguise.

Heady stuff.

So while the album has it's fair share of upbeat, big budget, Rodeo Drive moments, the lion's share of the material focuses on loss. Not exactly a foreign subject for the 'cab.

Rich Costey produced the album and gives opener "No Room In Frame" a Emo-meets-Hall & Oates vibe with a stuttering downbeat and an air-brushed feel which makes it seem straight out of 1989.

"Black Sun" is the Death Cab you learned to love with its crunchy guitar stabs and skittering drum machines. "There's whiskey in the water" Gibbard sings with his passive-aggresive vocal style.

His vocals are angry but they are delivered with such a resignation you could believe he is content in his misery.

This is mope rock you can vacuum the living room to.

"Little Wanderer" describes a long distance lover with a pretty-dark chord progression reminiscent of The Smashing Pumpkins' dark album of loss "Adore." However, Gibbard is very on-the-nose with his lyric choices, referencing Facebook messenger during his correspondences, leaving little to the imagination and taking you out of the moment for a bit.

Gibbard has never worried about being "cool," and for a time (lets say 2003-2008) his nerdy heartbreak was actually completely in vogue.

But there is a feeling that his kingdom is slightly crumbing in 2015.

The paint-by-numbers Death Cab of "You've Haunted Me All My Life" seems way longer than it's 4:08 especially his on-the-nose rhyming of "life" and "wife" in the chorus and it's lumbering-to-the-finish-line ending.

The listener finally gets a fun, nearly danceable moment in "Good Help (Is So Hard To Find)" with it's "Heart Of Glass" backbeat and it's cynical music-business-related lyrics. "You'll never have to hear the word no, if you keep all your friends on the payroll" might be a swipe at Walla.

"The scaffolding will cheer and console you" is a spot-on depiction of the "loner" lifestyle.

It's always surprising to hear that a singer-songwriter could put all of their emotions on the table for everyone to consume and still want to be alone.

Here's hoping that Ben Gibbard will find another loner and that they can be alone together.

For more on Death Cab For Cutie:

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