Published Apr 02, 2015In some ways, Kintsugi, the eighth studio album by Death Cab for Cutie, is a return to form for the band. Lush arrangements blend with electronic flourishes to add depth and dimension to even the record's most straightforward rock songs.
Standout tracks "The Ghosts of Beverly Drive" and lead single "Black Sun" integrate these components perfectly. The intertwined guitars and organ of the latter's verse gives way to a chorus built around a quietly menacing synth line that drives home the lyrics more effectively than a full band arrangement ever could. At times, however, the band takes these new elements too far, with underwhelming results. Songs like "Good Help (Is So Hard to Find)" stray a little too far into bland pop territory, and the results feel slightly incongruous with the overall vibe the band has cultivated over the last 18 years.
Still, Kintsugi is a serious-sounding record. The album has an almost palpable air of melancholia about it, and though at times it threatens to derail the fun in even the most upbeat tracks, the added drama also lends the proceedings an urgency that helps elevate the album as a whole above the sometimes cheesy lyrics and heavy-handed sentimentality of songs like "Little Wanderer" and "You've Haunted Me All My Life."
Put simply, Kintsugi is 2003 enough to satiate long-time fans, but 2015 enough to appeal to the next generation of potential listeners. The friction between the two will be what fosters the debate between Death Cab for Cutie devotees as to the album's ultimate place in the band's pantheon. (Atlantic)