Death Cab For Cutie Kintsugi
  • THURSDAY, APRIL 02, 2015

  • Posted by: Jason Greenspan

Ben Gibbard isn't happy. He's sad, angry, introspective and desperately seeking catharsis: a powerful mix of emotional ammunition perfect for crafting a thematically hard-hitting album. Enter Kintsugi, the eighth studio album by alternative legends Death Cab For Cutie and an open letter to one of Gibbard's very specific exes.

Opening with "No Room In Frame", Kintsugi admits that there's a lot going on and that something went terribly wrong. Amid sparse yet driving instrumentation, Gibbard poses the question, "Was I in your way when the cameras turned to face you?/No room in frame for two." Continuing the theme of inquisitive lugubriousness, "Black Sun" asks, "How could something so fair be so cruel?" Once again, the emphasis is on the vocals, and the pared down sound serves to heighten the sense of sorrow. The melancholy reaches its pinnacle in "Everything's A Ceiling," in which Gibbard talks about the sun being black and the stars failing to move him as he's forced to "dig for someone new."

Because this is a Death Cab album, the vocals are in a class of their own. Ben Gibbard's voice has a smooth, pleasantly robotic quality that sounds like nothing before it, and will likely have no equal in the near future. It gets a feature on "Hold No Guns," another round of questioning for the perpetrator, accompanied only by pretty, sensitive guitar picking.

Kintsugi's musical simplicity is clearly a calculated decision aimed at achieving conceptual clarity, but it leaves the listener yearning for more at times. The uptempo songs feel right, establishing a nice groove and pulling the focus from the morose subject matter, and the slower, stinging tracks do their jobs. Kintsugi is a polished, quality (albeit repetitive) offering that satisfies, but fails to deliver anything spectacular.

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