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Death Cab For Cutie - Kintsugi (Review)

Death Cab For Cutie,

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

EIGHT albums in and the pleasure of listening to Death Cab For Cutie never gets old.

An arguably darker collection of songs than their previous release, Codes & Keys, this nevertheless finds the band in mesmerising form, mixing some intricate guitar work with emotive songs about love, loss and life.

What’s more, the US act even seem to be channelling the best of British at times, whether it’s classic Cure, the intricate beauty of James or the piercing nature of Placebo.

Again, the sound is continuing to evolve. But in a good way.

Album opener No Room In Frame is a mid-tempo start, combining some slick guitar hooks with those warmly ethereal vocals of Ben Gibbard, while Black Sun thrives on a striking central guitar loop, a strong back-beat, some nice backing organs and the type of vocal that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Placebo record (especially when the track really hits its stride). Both songs are instant highlights and an early indicator of how much you’re going to enjoy this album.

But then Gibbard and co barely put a foot wrong. The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive is another slick offering, this time recalling classic Cure or New Order in the way it employs its riffs. It’s the sound of the LP at its most toe-tapping and thrilling.

Little Wanderer, meanwhile, is tailor-made for comparisons with James in the way that it wraps a beautiful tale of long distance romance (“you’re my wander, how I need you back with me”) around some lovely instrumental layering. It’s quietly epic and utterly enchanting.

Similarly evocative is the melancholy, brooding You’ve Haunted Me All My Life, which again finds Gibbard’s vocals being likened to Tim Booth’s. The stripped back instrumentals (a sombre guitar, the subtlest of back-beats) add a haunted quality befitting the lyrics. But there’s a beauty too that’s beguiling. And just wait until the guitar solo does kick in.

Elsewhere, Everything’s A Ceiling slow-builds into something quite masterful, with a rapid-fire drum-beat eventually under-pinning things to striking effect and some more great guitar work; Good Help Is So Hard To Find employs an almost disco-style beat that lends the track a really pleasing pop-rock energy, and El Dorado drops another insistent back-beat that elevates the track to thrilling, especially once those guitar riffs are added.

Ingenue is also a really good listen, again beautifully realised without ever overdoing things, while a piano replaces the guitars on final track Binary Sea, which brings things to a sedate, but no less satisfying close. You could argue the album should have gone out on a high but there’s something thought-provoking in the way that it does end.

And no matter what you may ultimately think about it, there’s no denying that Kintsugi is a work of fantastic quality. But that’s no more than we’ve come to expect from Death Cab For Cutie.

Download picks: No Room in Frame, Black Sun, Little Wanderer, You’ve Haunted Me All My Life, El Dorado

Watch the video for Black Sun

Listen to No Room In Frame

Track listing:

  1. No Room In Frame
  2. Black Sun
  3. The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive
  4. Little Wanderer
  5. You’ve Haunted Me All My Life
  6. Hold No Guns
  7. Everything’s A Ceiling
  8. Good Help (Is So Hard To Find)
  9. El Dorado
  10. Ingenue
  11. Binary Sea