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Death Cab For Cutie
Atlantic Records / Barsuk Records (LP)

It's nice when a plan seems to finally come to fruition. Ben Gibbard, the lead-man behind longtime indie darlings Death Cab For Cutie, has been slowly building to this point for half a decade or more… And Gibbard has finally arrived. His music has found a mature voice, the songs achieved a point of brilliance merely hinted at in his past releases, and the musicianship and arrangements on Plans climb to a place far higher than the band has previously reached. And all of this on an album laced with nothing but references to death.

The lead single "Soul Meets Body" sounds more like a New Order track than a traditional Death Cab track. The guitars chime out melodies that are blissful and almost sweet, while Gibbard's voice seems to have achieved a depth and consciousness that it used to lack, creating a bed of sound filled with empathetic emotion and brilliantly presenting the glorious lyrics. Gibbard's songwriting and lyrical abilities are nowhere more apparent than on the bleak acoustic track "I Will Follow You Into The Dark": "But if Heaven and Hell decide they're both satisfied/ illuminate the NO's on their vacancy signs/ if there's no one beside you when your soul embarks/ then I'll follow you into the dark." The rocking sway of "Crooked Teeth" never fails to amaze my ears. Gibbard once more sounds like a Bernard Sumner student, but his refrains are brilliantly melodic, creating my favorite single line on the record: "You're so cute when you're slurring your speech, but they're closing the bar and they want us to leave" and a great guitar break that makes me think of The Catherine Wheel. This track leans more toward the feel of some of the band's previous recordings, but the major difference is the quality of the sound - this entire record feels more alive than previous outings. The songs are more dynamic, less flat. It's a hard thing to explain…

"What Sarah Said" is an amazing track, built around a gently rolling piano line, and fleshed out by the amazingly fluid drumming of Jason McGerr; some of the finest young drumming that I've heard in years. The song will send chills down your spine when listening to the brilliant poetic love song laced with the concurrent death theme.

The most obvious thing, to me, on this new record is the tremendous influence of working so closely with Jimmy Tamborello on the Postal Service project. The electronic nature of those songs seems to be reflected in the nature of these new Death Cab songs, the melodies having the same uncluttered feeling and pervasive mood. Does this hail a new era for the darlings of indie rock? I certainly hope so. With music like this, I'll never not listen to Death Cab again… and I'll even stop making fun of all the indie kids that espouse their greatness to me.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Marching Bands of Manhattan
2. Soul Meets Body
3. Summer Skin
4. Different Names for the Same Thing
5. I Will Follow You into the Dark
6. Your Heart Is an Empty Room
7. Someday You Will Be Loved
8. Crooked Teeth
9. What Sarah Said
10. Brothers on a Hotel Bed
11. Stable Song

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