Release Date: Mar 31, 2015
Record label: Atlantic
Death Cab For Cutie's Transatlanticism stands out in the body of their past as the main novel amid a plethora of coming-of-age stories. It felt like a culmination of a series of plots addressing growing up and trying to find oneself. But what happens when this happens and then, everything's inexplicably shattered? During the production of this 45 minute 11-tracker, lead guitarist and founding member Chris Walla announced his departure after 17 years (although contributing to the recording and creative process until the record was finished).
Given the alienated fanbases, tales of Hollywood divorce and departures of founding members that have all plagued Death Cab For Cutie since their last record, ‘Kintsugi’’s first triumph lies simply in its title. Named after a Japanese style of art involving fixing broken ceramics with solid gold detailing, it’s an insight into Death Cab’s readiness to not just repair themselves, but to come back more valuable than ever before. ‘Kintsugi’ is the actualisation of those intentions.
Death Cab for Cutie's eighth full-length album, 2015's Kintsugi, finds the group sliding further into the studio smoothness that marked 2011's Codes and Keys. Produced by Rich Costey -- best-known for his work with Kimbra, Mew, Muse, Interpol, and Chvrches -- Kintsugi is also the last album Death Cab recorded with co-founding member Chris Walla, who announced he was leaving the band during the recording process. Sentiment has always been lead singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard's calling card, but as he starts to stare down the corridor to 40, he seems comfortable with leaving that open heart unadorned -- or, better still, gussied up in a coat of studio shellac.
As the mandatory explanation that comes with Death Cab for Cutie’s latest full-length album goes: Kintsugi: the Record was written, recorded and tied together by the healing theme of repair. And Kintsugi: the Art is very much the same. The Japanese practice, mostly used in ceramics, mends broken pieces with liquefied or dusted metals like gold or silver.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Surely I can't be alone in admitting that Death Cab for Cutie narrated my first experiences with love. Ben Gibbard's melancholy tendencies and plaintive lyrics once resonated in a way that seemed profound and simultaneously nonthreatening. 'I Will Follow You Into The Dark' (from 2005's Plans) was a height to aspire to: a chronicle of unending love told through accessible, anecdotal verses.
Kintsugi is Death Cab for Cutie's survival record. In the years since the indie-rock heroes put out 2011's comparatively buoyant Codes and Keys, frontman Ben Gibbard went through a public divorce from actress-singer Zooey Deschanel, and founding guitarist and producer Chris Walla began to move out of the band's orbit. Those breakups resound in nearly every corner of the sparsely textured, emotionally prostrate album, starting with its first song, "No Room in Frame," where Gibbard sings with crystal-clear heartache, "I guess it's not a failure we could help/And we'll both go on to get lonely with someone else." Gibbard's signature way of sounding affected by life's disappointments without letting them wreck him comes in handy here.
“There is beauty in a failure,” Ben Gibbard sings pensively on “Black Sun,” the lead single from Death Cab for Cutie’s eighth studio album, Kintsugi. The frontman has always been nothing if not articulate, a quality he’s demonstrated in spades on some of his band’s earliest — and most earnest — releases (specifically 2000’s gently pining We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes and 2001’s more extroverted The Photo Album). More than a decade after those successes, the heavy-hearted singer has another storage unit of troubles to process: Not just his 2012 divorce from actress Zooey Deschanel, but also the band’s now-departed guitarist and longtime producer, Chris Walla — these problems are not the anatomical particulars of “fumbling to make contact” in Gibbard’s “grey subcompact.
Benjamin Gibbard has an exceptional knack for writing impersonal songs that find a home in everyone else’s but his own. Perhaps a consequence of his own doing, he’s become a cheerleader for the disaffected, whose dejected anthems have acquired a feverish following ever since Death Cab for Cutie became a household name after the phenomenon of overwrought teen melodrama The O.C. His narrative approach is detailed but commonplace, heartfelt and wholly melancholy, which makes it impossible not to find that one perfect song in their extensive catalogue to wholly consume your entire days, weeks, months, if not years.
Review Summary: Half measures. I am the worst kind of flip-flopper. Of 2011’s Codes and Keys, I wrote that the record’s fatal flaw wasn’t in the band’s much ballyhooed change of musical direction, but rather that Ben Gibbard was the key ingredient missing: “Until Gibbard can harness this newfound happiness with the kind of lyrical flair his fans are used to, Death Cab remain in danger of being, well, just another indie band.
After founding member and producer Chris Walla left Death Cab for Cutie last year, it was reasonable to expect a change in the band's sound—and following 2011's disappointing Codes and Keys, a change was needed. Following their 2003 breakthrough, Transatlanticism, and their meticulously composed major-label debut, Plans, 2008's Narrow Stairs drew from an eclectic palette and realigned the band with a more DIY sensibility. In contrast, Codes and Keys sanded off those edges, trading = the darker material of the preceding album for a more emotionally buoyant tone that at the time sincerely reflected principal songwriter Ben Gibbard's domestic bliss, but led to their least interesting album musically.
Death Cab For Cutie’s eighth release Kintsugi is a strange sort of breakup album. First, it marks the departure of the band’s guitarist and producer Chris Walla, and second, it sits in the context of singer Ben Gibbard’s breakup with Zooey Deschanel. As you might expect, melancholy moments linger everywhere: opener No Room in Frame starts out like one of LCD Soundsystem’s more reflective tracks, with synths and guitars building and dropping as Gibbard sings.
Chris Walla quit Death Cab for Cutie last year, which means he will never again be called the band's "secret weapon. " His nuanced craftsmanship served as a buffer against Ben Gibbard’s increasingly broad and bland songwriting on recent LPs Narrow Stairs and Codes & Keys, but Walla "long[ed] for the unknown" and Gibbard felt the band was becoming stagnant and "self-referential". Though Walla contributes guitar and electronic collage to the band's eighth LP Kintsugi, he abdicates the producer’s role for the first time in the band’s history—in his stead is a proper big-budget pop guy, the preposterously and perfectly named Rich Costey (Muse, Foster the People, Chvrches).
Kintsugi, Death Cab for Cutie's newest album and the follow-up to 2011's Codes and Keys, takes its title from the Japanese art of piecing broken pottery back together; this is especially apt, given recent changes to the group. Lead guitarist and founding member, Chris Walla, left the band in August 2014, though he remained artistically involved until the album's completion. Walla had been a member of Death Cab for 17 years and produced all seven of its preceding albums.
One of the downsides to 2015’s otherwise strong first quarter has been witnessing the creative decline of some of indie rock’s longest running institutions. From The Decemberists to Modest Mouse to Belle and Sebastian, bands that had long been titans of emotionally direct and intellectually challenging rock music showed varying elements of fatigue, all achieving or matching the least celebrated albums of their career. That Bellingham, Washington’s Death Cab for Cutie should join this list isn’t surprising.
Let’s get this straight: Kintsugi is a breakup album. It’s a particularly fitting label to use once you learn the recent history of Death Cab for Cutie, and therefore it becomes the talking point when appraising the Washingtonians’ eighth record. Because this is, of course, their first release since guitarist and longtime producer Chris Walla departed the band last September after 17 years.
Kintsugi may very well go down as one of the most depressing rock albums of all time. No, not because of any sort of notable catharsis it achieves, but because it actually captures the sound of a rock band giving up completely. Let’s not forget that for a time, Death Cab for Cutie were the easy populist figurehead of what qualified as “indie rock” in the early aughts, reaching their critical peak with 2003’s Transatlanticism.
The first words on Death Cab For Cutie’s new album Kintsugi are “I don’t know where to begin.” Despite ever-expanding production budgets, additional instrumentation, and the sonic explorations that come with a maturing band, the voice and lyrics of singer Ben Gibbard have always kept a personal, grounded intimacy to the music. That changed somewhat with the band’s last record, 2011’s Codes And Keys, where less-confessional lyrics and a more austere vibe left some fans cold. But the more electronic-tinged soundscapes suggested new avenues for a band that had honed its older sound to perhaps too comfortable a point.
Desertion — inseparable from its aftermath of recovery — haunts “Kintsugi” (Atlantic), the eighth album by Death Cab for Cutie. Titled after the Japanese art of mending cracked ceramics with precious metals, it’s a smartly shaped response to two recent disentanglements, at least one of which seems to have left a residue of trauma. Death Cab for Cutie formed in 1997 as a melodic indie-rock band with a lineup featuring the singer-songwriter Benjamin Gibbard, the bassist Nick Harmer and the guitarist Chris Walla.
Art for new album from Death Cab for Cutie. Art for new album from Death Cab for Cutie. There's no escaping the backdrop of Death Cab for Cutie's eighth studio album, "Kintsugi" (Atlantic). No names are named, but the breakup of singer Ben Gibbard's marriage with actress Zooey Deschanel shadows every note.
The title of Death Cab for Cutie’s eighth album is a window into the band’s soul. “Kintsugi” refers to a Japanese artform in which broken pottery is repaired in a manner that highlights cracks rather than hiding them, helping to tell the tale of the object’s life. The Washington state rockers have weathered some breaks, including the departure of multi-instrumentalist and longtime producer Chris Walla — who departed after “Kintsugi,” which was produced by Rich Costey (Vampire Weekend) — and frontman Ben Gibbard’s divorce from actress Zooey Deschanel.
The 2012 divorce of Ben Gibbard and She & Him's Zooey Deschanel, plus the late-game departure of band lieutenant Chris Walla makes Kintsugi a breakup album. The Washington Staters' eighth LP delivers, too, even if it isn't 2003's weeping Transatlanticism or the barbed repression of 2000's We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes. Shellacked, arena-worthy, and self-referential, fleeting moments still key in on the gut-check lyricism that inscribed Gibbard into the hearts of millennials.
In a recent interview, Ben Gibbard, whose tender voice has been a warm blanket for heartbroken teenagers for two decades, said that Death Cab for Cutie fans typically love one of three albums: the lo-fi We Have The Facts, The OC generation's emo soundtrack Transatlanticism or Plans, the major label debut that catapulted the Seattle band from small gigs to arenas. Will DCFC's eighth go on to make that list? Unlikely. Should you still listen to it? Definitely.
opinion byJESSE NEE-VOGELMAN Death Cab for Cutie has been around long enough for the original drummer, Nathan Good, to have retired from music and begun teaching English at my old high school. He now plays drums for the faculty band. For legends, these days, decline is inevitable. Rock stars used flame out at 27; now, post-millennials are just as likely to know Jay Z as a businessman or Robinson Cano’s agent as a rapper (or maybe the guy who does the boring part on Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love”).