Album Review: Death Cab for Cutie – ‘Thank You For Today’
Posted: by The Editor
With over 20 years of experience and nine LPs under their belt, Death Cab for Cutie’s classic sound has aged gracefully. In comparison to other bands of their time that’s crumbled with progression, they never allowed themselves to get trapped in the ease and slack of recreating the same record time after time. With Thank You for Today, Death Cab for Cutie is a walking billboard for knowing how to evolve without totally abandoning their distinct flare.
While in a dimly-lit airport at 8 AM waiting for my flight, I took the chance to press play on Death Cab for Cutie’s newest LP, Thank You For Today. About 38 minutes later, I was consumed with the refreshing feel of the group’s latest effort. It was almost like it was destined to be the soundtrack of the atmosphere of an early-morning airport with it’s a direct pick-up and drop-off of the familiar and the new of sound and production. The air of excitement and opportunity, nervous tension, and the plethora of interesting people filtering through proves to be the good feelings that go hand-in-hand with the delays and chaos that can symbolize the journey of Thank You For Today.
Rising from the ashes that were surrounding Death Cab for Cutie’s previous record Kintsugi, this is the Seattle-rooted group’s first effort after the absence of co-founder Chris Walla. Undoubtedly a big task to take on, the band doesn’t fall into redundancy or misdirection – instead they sound healthy and revived all throughout the record, offering a fresh twist to their familiar flare.
“I Dreamt We Spoke” showcases this evolved sound mixing sleek guitars and fuzzy synths with obscure vocals from Ben Gibbard that almost feels indistinguishable to what Death Cab for Cutie has been known for the past 20 years. The cool and slinky track is only the beginning of this blend of experimental qualities that is featured on Thank You for Today. It feels like an introductory handshake to the new Death Cab for Cutie.
Not only does the musicality take a modern approach but Gibbard’s lyrical prowess and the band’s influential sampling has a contemporary feel as well. “Gold Rush,” utilizing a Yoko Ono sample from 1971 track “Mind Train,” spotlights Gibbard’s heavier lyrical content as he is heard begging against the gentrification of his neighborhood above a stream of guitar and percussion.
As much as Thank You for Today has amped the group’s shtick, there are areas that still thrust one back to the distinct sound of Death Cab for Cutie that overcame the early 2000’s “emo” scene full of their grey-hued songs with melancholic lyrics and impassioned emotions. Play “Your Hurricane” to fuel the mildly depressing familiarity of the band as it carries on about a struggling friend, reminding one of that soft spot they have for 2000s alternative. “Autumn Love” is another that reflects the catchy hooks and melodies over angst and inflection of Gibbard’s vocals that any original fan will find solace in.
“You Moved Away” could’ve fit seamlessly into the Death Cab for Cutie classic Transatlanticism. The tone of the track lives up to its name; it’s a somber and stoic build remembering a dear friend moving away. As it goes, goodbyes are never easy and with glumly-sung lyrics, “When you moved away all your friends got drunk, and one by one, begged you to stay. When you moved away they all felt irrationally betrayed.” It’s hard to think of this song as anything but an upsetting ode to a farewell.
Thank You for Today’s closer “60 & Punk” will haunt the four corners of the mind. The predominantly piano-driven track recounts Gibbard addressing a personal role-model and the struggles he’s observed them grappling with. It almost feels too personal for comfort at times -a record that can reflect farther to anyone who refuses to face those tough observations themselves. The heavy brooding ranges from explaining how it isn’t eloquent to be a drunk to announcing there’s nothing upstanding about being 60 with a punk lifestyle. Nearer to the end, the most introspective question is expressed through down-turned vocals, “when you’re looking in the mirror do you see that kid that she used to be?”
Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal
Hope Ankney | @hope_ankleknee
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