Death Cab for Cutie’s Codes and Keys

28 Dec

It’s a beautiful experience listening through the Death Cab for Cutie discography and hearing the band develop and refine its sound more and more with each album.

As the band has progressed, it’s sounded less and less like listening to music underwater (Lead singer Ben Gibbard‘s vocals seeming distant and gurgled, and the vague crash of guitars mimicking the rushing ocean waves). Death Cab’s guitar riffs and instrumental pieces are becoming more coherent and distinctive, and Gibbard has learnt how best to render his soft and hazy (however characteristic) voice.

Whist Death Cab was already beginning to (holistically) achieve this crisper and more directed sound as early as Transatlanticism (2003), their more recent work (Narrow Stairs [2008] and particularly Codes and Keys) is more dynamic in terms of its instrumental layering, and seperate instrumental pieces are more distinguishable from one another.

Codes and Keys is another forward step for Death Cab for its tentative departure from Death Cab’s uniform lachrymose chord progressions and melodic style.

The “happier” overall sound of Codes and Keys, particularly in comparison with Narrow Stairs – which Gibbard deemed the band’s “most depressing album”* to date – aside from reflecting Gibbard’s newfound happiness in marrying indie musician and actress Zooey Deschanel, is allegedly due to Gibbard’s giving up alcohol and replacing this destructive habit with marathon running*. Gibbard told Spin magazine in May that he felt he had been in a more balanced emotional state when writing for Codes and Keys* – a claim verified by the album itself: “You are a Tourist” is an optimistic, heartening song with comforting, encouraging lyrics and a catchy, major-key lead guitar part, and “Stay Young, Go Dancing” is a more truly joyful and shockingly gall-free song than I ever thought I’d hear from Death Cab for Cutie (mind you, who wouldn’t have an albatross-sized grin on their face all the time if they were married to Zooey Deschanel?).

Codes and Keys is another rung in the continuous musical development of Death Cab for Cutie – who, now, it seems, do happy music as well.


P.S. Listen to Death Cab’s “Home is a Fire”, and then listen to Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun”… and then raise your eyebrows, and thank me the next time you’re out of your musical depth and need a conversation starter.




13 Responses to “Death Cab for Cutie’s Codes and Keys”

  1. henry 6 January 2012 at 1:27 PM #

    ben and zooey got divorced a long time ago.

    • Michelle Avenant 24 January 2012 at 9:44 PM #

      I know, but that doesn’t change the fact that Codes & Keys was a happier album because of their marriage.

      I tried to find a way of slotting their divorce into the review, because it did seem relevant, but I couldn’t figure out how to link it in without it seeming like pointless gossip.

      It’s hard enough being a musician without people talking about your love life behind your back, right Henry? 😛

      • Henry 24 January 2012 at 11:37 PM #

        I don’t care. I just want the two most awesome people in the whole world to be together again.

      • Michelle Avenant 25 January 2012 at 9:54 AM #

        Awww… I’m sure they had good reason to break up. Either that or the commitment failure induced by our instant-gratification-based culture even takes itself out on indie people. Grim.

  2. Henry 25 January 2012 at 12:18 PM #

    Are “indie people” people who are released independently?

  3. Henry 25 January 2012 at 5:22 PM #

    Those are the best kind of people. I hate it when people are produced by large companies.

  4. bagheadkelly 28 January 2012 at 8:21 PM #

    I listened to ‘Home is a Fire’ and I listened to ‘Third Stone from the Sun’, I even raised my eyebrow but I just don’t get it – I guess I’m just our of my musical depth. Liked the lyrics on Ýou’re A Tourist” though but I probably wouldn’t have even heard them except someone had printed them in the comments.

    • Michelle Avenant 31 January 2012 at 6:32 PM #

      The thing is that they have the same leading melody – which is quite common amongst musicians who have influence over one another, but who would’ve thought it of Death Cab and Hendrix? I thought it was quite cool, and still cool if it’s just a coincidence on Gibbard’s part.

    • Henry 8 February 2012 at 7:47 PM #

      If reading an article on is the goddamn paparazzi, then yes, smartass.

      • Michelle Avenant 9 February 2012 at 1:46 PM #

        Flip, I feel bad for these people. Can’t even text one another without the whole world knowing about it.

      • Henry 9 February 2012 at 5:30 PM #


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: