September 8, 2005

Death Cab for Cutie: Plans

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Back in high school, a special someone made me a mix CD with a couple of Death Cab For Cutie songs thrown in. Without giving the band a chance, I wrote them off as yet another indie band. Soon after, I made the conversion and became a huge Death Cab fan.

In case you haven’t heard of Death Cab For Cutie, think The Postal Service. Ben Gibbard, lead singer of Death Cab, worked on a side project known as The Postal Service that gathered widespread success, somewhat due to the Garden State soundtrack. In addition, Death Cab is constantly hyped up on FOX’s popular series The O.C. The band’s fifth full-length, Plans, is their first release on a major record label. Prior to signing with Atlantic Records, Death Cab garnered underground success with Seattle-based indie label, Barsuk records. With Barsuk, the band released four other full lengths and a couple of EP’s as well.

Death Cab For Cutie is purely an indie band. They occasionally get plastered with an alternative label, but their sound is indie. Since the band’s inception in the late ’90s, they have maintained a vibe and sound that is truly their own. Gibbard’s vocals can only be described as one-of-a-kind. His unique style is nothing fancy, but it’s extremely difficult to find a singer that constantly sings with a pitch that is high, yet that isn’t annoying and hard to listen to. On every song, Gibbard’s vocals are nothing short of perfection. I was always impressed with the level of talent this band delivered and this album exemplifies that notion to the utmost degree. As a whole, Plans is a solid album that carries a definitive Death Cab sound from start to finish. Of course, there are songs that standout more than others.

The opening track, “Marching Bands of Manhattan,” begins with an organ that transitions to Gibbard’s vocals and eventually closes with an appealing chorus. “Summer Skin” and “Brothers On A Hotel Bed” are incredible. Both songs are dramatic piano-driven ballads that sound like anthems of some sort. The components of “Summer Skin,” especially the bass and drums, flow confidently with the flawlessness of Gibbard singing about summer love. “Brothers On a Hotel Bed” is quite possibly the best track on the album. I don’t even know how to begin to describe this song. I’ll put it this way, if one song could be described as perfect and flawless – this song is it. While I’m on the note of Death Cab praising, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” is right up there with “Brothers On a Hotel Bed.” The song is an acoustic piece, in which Gibbard sings about love and death, two themes that resonate throughout the album. The first listen through the album, I was certain this song was it; I knew it had to be the best. Gibbard sings, “If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks / Then I’ll follow you into the dark.” The acoustic song does not have a traditional “Death Cab indie” sound, but it works damn well, to say the least. With the switch to a major label, I was worried that the band’s style and sound would change for the worse. Fortunately, Death Cab did one hell of a job creating a solid album that is very much their own.

Archived article by Adrian Prieto
Sun Staff Writer