It's been nearly four years since Death Cab For Cutie released their last album, and a lot has changed for the band since — most notably the departure of guitarist, producer, and founding member Chris Walla last fall. While Walla played his last show with the band in September, his presence is felt one more time on Kintsugi, the band's eighth album that they finished up prior to his departure. DCFC has been releasing a steady stream of tracks from the album over the last few months leading up to its March 31st release, but today the whole thing can be found streaming over at NPR.
It's been a turbulent four years for Death Cab
Even though the band's long-standing lineup all participated in the creation and recoding of Kintsugi, it's the first time the band worked with an outside producer. Judging from the songs released thus far, it's still very much a Death Cab album — the band has never been one for completely radical sonic departures. This time out, though, things are sounding a bit more sparse, perhaps a bit more electronic, but it's a logical growth point, but everything's still anchored by frontman Benjamin Gibbard's voice and generally sullen lyrics. Indeed, NPR notes that this is "very clearly a breakup record." Gibbard divorced from singer / actor Zooey Deschanel shortly after the release of Death Cab's 2011 release Codes and Keys — an album that many noted was significantly more hopeful lyrically than its predecessors. (Perhaps not coincidentally, some also said it felt like the least authentic and relatable Death Cab album to date.)
Fortunately, it sounds like the album remains best when not pinned down to anyone specific incident. "These songs — and songs in general, really — work best when they aren't contextualized in too much literal detail," writes Stephen Thompson for NPR. "Kintsugi is better viewed as an album about drifting apart, by a band trying to hold itself together, and that's far more universal than any given Hollywood love story gone wrong."
That's been Death Cab For Cutie's strength for 18 years — while Gibbard has almost certainly had specific experience behind the songs he writes, the best ones become universal enough to make it feel like they were written just for you. If Death Cab can take the turbulence of the last few years and turn it into songs that we all can relate to, the band may be able to weather Walla's departure without missing a beat. Take a listen over at NPR and decide for yourself.