Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys (Cover Artwork)

Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and KeysCodes and Keys (2011)

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: thepopeofchili-townthepopeofchili-town
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Death Cab for Cutie is a huge band for me. Their lyrics got me through all the obligatory high school breakups. My Senior Ditch Day was spent traveling to see the band play Red Rocks. Admittedly, I was late to the game on checking them out (2003's Transatlanticism was my first experience with their .
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Death Cab for Cutie is a huge band for me. Their lyrics got me through all the obligatory high school breakups. My Senior Ditch Day was spent traveling to see the band play Red Rocks. Admittedly, I was late to the game on checking them out (2003's Transatlanticism was my first experience with their work), but once I was on board, I never looked back. Needless to say, every few years when news of a new Death Cab album surfaces, I anticipate it with baited breath.

One of the first things apparent about Codes and Keys, their latest offering and third for major label Atlantic, is that it is nowhere near as immediately catchy as their last few efforts. The hooks are still there, but they're not out in the open. The influence of 2008's Narrow Stairs' eight-minute single "I Will Possess Your Heart" rears its head on several tracks here. "Doors Unlocked and Open" and "Unobstructed Views" lumber on for two and three minutes, respectively, before the vocals kick in, and piano is featured heavily on several tracks, moreso than guitar.

Instrumentation isn't the only thing that's changed for Death Cab for Cutie, however. For the first time in the group's recorded history, vocalist/guitarist Ben Gibbard is a happily married man, and this has affected his lyrical style, for better or worse. In the past, even their love songs sounded extremely depressing (see "I Will Follow You Into the Dark"), but this time around, some of them are simply sweet, "Monday Morning" being the best example of this. With his newfound happiness not exactly jiving with Death Cab's style, he turns his attention outward on several tracks, singing about other characters, rather than himself.

By now everyone's heard the album's first single, "You Are a Tourist". Its anthemic guitar line makes it sound akin to something from Narrow Stairs, and it's a great single, if a little misleading about the rest of the album. As a whole, Codes and Keys is a huge curveball after its more rock-based predecessor.

One of the more interesting songs on the record is its opening track "Home Is a Fire". Gibbard's vocals combined with electronic drums make it the closest thing we've gotten to a Postal Service track since 2003. "Underneath the Sycamore" is a late-album highlight, reminiscent of 2005's Plans' "Crooked Teeth", and should make for a strong second single.

Death Cab for Cutie isn't content with repeating themselves. They've crafted an album that you couldn't mistake for anyone else, but they take enough risks to keep things interesting. Expanded instrumentation and a fresh lyrical perspective have helped cultivate a record that's exciting and challenging. It's not the best thing they've ever done, but it's an album they should be proud of, and one I'll keep coming back to.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
ifthesetrees (August 7, 2014)

It's awesome, not their best IMO, but they are so shiny these days. But huge album, better and better every listen and higher quality song-writing than almost everything else I heard that year.

wallofyouth (June 1, 2011)

unless it's on a commercial or something, i have not heard the first single from this album

TheWalkingTargets (June 1, 2011)

they have still never released a bad album.

brystr06 (June 1, 2011)

codes and keys the song is super catchy. like one of the other posters said...nothing they've done has disappointed. another awesome effort.

keithybobeefy (May 31, 2011)

Transatlantacism will always hold a special place in my life. I've never been disappointed by anything they've done, so I'll be checking this out for sure.

thepopeofchili-town (May 31, 2011)

Mid-20's? Not for a few more years,

skolarx (May 31, 2011)

i didn't get the love for this band when i saw them play a fest 10 years ago. still don't...

TheMike (May 31, 2011)

Not garbage.

MuhammadMormon (May 31, 2011)


Heathbar (May 31, 2011)

The Pope of Chili Town is in their mid-20s?! What an amazing feat of reaching an exalted position at such a young age. Great review. Gotta pick this up for the fiance... (thoughtful gift for her that has many positives for me)

wearestillalive (May 31, 2011)

Best thing they've done since Transatlanticism... they're trying something new and it's working. This is awesome pop rather than just rehashing their best work again.

fretty (May 31, 2011)

nice to see Mattramone considers these guys to be one of his "top 10 recording acts"

oldpunkerforever (May 31, 2011)

these four stars are for the lead singers wife, Zoey D, gorgeous-oldpunker-

mattramone (May 31, 2011)

I love that this wussy shit burger by a top 10 recording act is a lead review on a site dedicated to underground music. The yuppies stole indie rock, are they gonna take on Latterman-esque whoa punk next?

usversusthem (May 31, 2011)

This isn't bad‚??I like "Doors Unlocked and Open" and "Underneath the Sycamore" a lot, and as a whole it's more listenable than Narrow Stairs, I think‚??but it's hard to enjoy it when you think that this is the same band that put out Transatlanticism and Plans once upon a time. It's evident that they've improved as musicians, and they're taking more risks, but the inherent soul of DCFC‚??Gibbard's sappy romantic bullshit‚??just doesn't sit well on top of these really thought-out and overworked jams. It feels like this is a band that's aging badly not because they're stagnating, but because they're moving away from what made them good in a misguided bid not to.

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