Death Cab for Cutie is a soft/indie-rock band from the Pacific Northwest. They debuted in 1998 with Something About Airplanes, and followed with two more records over the next three years. They finally reached prominence in 2003 with Transatlanticism, which went gold, and the platinum certified Plans in 2005. After Plans, the group slowly tapered in popularity over ten years and three more releases, leading up to their most recent project, Thank You For Today, which showed a few signs that the band may be stumbling onto a new, exciting style. With The Blue EP, Death Cab has hit a new high.
The EP opens with one of the most ambitious cuts in the band’s history in “To The Ground.” The slow, brooding opener and prominent bass guitar feels almost ripped from the pages of an art-rock act until Ben Gibbard’s luscious, calm vocal brings the track into its central groove, which covers the majority of the run time. Still, the lyrics about a brutal car crash and the Beatles influence which is even more pronounced here than it always is on Death Cab’s music, make for one of the more interesting tracks I’ve heard this year.
“Kids in ’99,” follows, and it’s one of Death Cab’s catchiest tunes in years. The vocal hook on the verses is simply infectious and the shoegazey guitars and danceable drum work makes for an extremely enjoyable listen. Only two tracks into this EP, and already the signs of life which appeared on last year’s Thank You For Today have developed into a full blown, noticeable energy.
“Man In Blue,” falls in the center of the project and it’s a classic, atmospheric Death Cab song. Dave Depper’s lead guitar, while simple, is absolutely perfect to set the mood and Gibbard brings yet another wonderful vocal performance. In classic Death Cab for Cutie style, the track never quite reaches an explosive climax, but is instead a beautiful atmosphere for a listener to just sit in for a moment.
“Before the Bombs,” is another strong showing, though I must take slight issue with the fairly cheesy lyrics on the hook which mar an otherwise strong piece of writing. It’s the harmonies, though, which really steal the spotlight hear as the strange effects and creative note choices bring a dynamic sound. Additionally, the electronic elements and fuzzy guitar effects are utilized extremely well.
The closer, “Blue Bloods,” may be my favorite track on the EP. Jason McGerr’s drums are slow and simple, yet perfectly thoughtful and beautifully played. Gibbard’s vocals and lyrics are fantastic with some really creative melodic moments on the first verse. Above all, though, it’s the band’s ability to pace the track’s five minute run-time which impresses me the most. Thanks to a roaring guitar solo from Depper and a well played bass line from Nick Harmer, the explosive instrumental passage in the last couple minutes is a tremendously effective closer.
As the EP finishes, I’m somewhat blown away. There was plenty to be happy about with last year’s album, but The Blue EP takes this to a new level. While they haven’t quite found the heights for their mid-2000’s peak, Death Cab has created a new, more mature sound which compliments Gibbard’s writing well.
The Blue EP is a triumph for a band which is more than two decades out from their debut, and it’s one of their most exciting projects to date.