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“Kintsugi” Gets A Gold Star

| Thursday, March 26, 2015

KintsugiWEBErin Rice | The Observer

When I think of bands that have truly been with me throughout my life, the ones I can count are few and far between. However, one that would instantly be put on my soundtrack would be Death Cab for Cutie. The band has had a hefty 17-year career, and they have been working their way up through the charts with well-known songs about love, loss and everything in between. However, youth cannot stay for long, and this is identified on Death Cab for Cutie’s newest album, “Kintsugi.” Kintsugi, as a method, is a Japanese art of taking broken pottery and repairing the cracks with gold or silver. The Japanese treat this art as breakage being part of the pottery’s history, instead of something to cover up and disguise.

This album is Death Cab for Cutie’s very first without their producer, Chris Walla. “Kintsugi,” both as an album title and an idea, fits along with the concept of the album, because while the theme is partly adulthood, it has an underlying theme of repair and renewal. I was surprised by the simplicity of this album overall, compared to the upbeat nature of their last album, “Codes and Keys.” Its opener, “No Room In Frame,” is definitely a breakup song, a possible ode to Ben Gibbard’s breakup with Zooey Deschanel earlier in the year. Their premiere single, “Black Sun,” has the memorable lyrics that Death Cab for Cutie is known for, but with a new, cleaner mellowness that radiates throughout the entire album.

A third song that is definitely worth mentioning is “Little Wanderer.” It has a dreamlike, drifting quality, while keeping with the overall neatness of “Kintsugi.” A memorable lyric comes from the chorus: “You’re my wanderer / Little wanderer / off across the sea / You’re my wanderer / Little wanderer / How I wish that you could see / How I need you back with me.” This song would definitely be perfect for when you have a serious case of wanderlust.

On the same note, “Hold No Guns” is different from anything I’ve ever heard Death Cab for Cutie do before. This is because in the beginning, there are no instrumentals on the track. Gibbard’s soulful voice bleeds through, and just like at his shows, his raw emotion and talent are showcased. It eventually fades into barely-there guitar, accentuating the softness of the song. “My love, why do you run / My hands hold no guns,” then, “Break you with the slightest bend / That leaves you lost and helpless.” I believe that if they had added anything more to this track, it would have taken away from its aesthetic and meaning; this is something they did just right.

Although I do not have many negative things to say about “Kintsugi,” I did not end up connecting with one of the songs as much as I thought I would. As a major Death Cab for Cutie fan, I expected to love all of their work, especially after hoping for a comeback after the disappointment that was “Codes And Keys.” “El Dorado” is one of the songs I felt myself skipping, even after listening to the album a couple of times. I hope it will grow on me, like some of my old favorite Death Cab for Cutie songs did.

Overall, Death Cab for Cutie has definitely rounded out their career — and their style — with “Kintsugi.”  This concept definitely works with their growing up and coming-of-age, and I’m happy to report that they are back and better than ever. This is one album that I will not just be getting on iTunes only. If this is what Death Cab for Cutie’s future looks like, it is definitely bright, and they are going to be sticking around for more than 17 years.

4.5 out of 5 Shamrocks

Similar to: The Postal Service, The Decemberists, Broken Social Scene, Band of Horses

 

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