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TUNE IN: Kintsugi
April 22, 2015
As with all tumultuous patterns, Death Cab for Cutie’s history has finally reached a plateau—“Kintsugi” proves just that.
Its eighth album, DCFC’s “Kintsugi” portrays a resolve for the band. “Kintsugi,” a Japanese term referring to the formulation of broken pottery and gold to create a repaired work, is an attempt to culminate DCFC’s varied ideas and styles into one refined composition. Singer-songwriter Benjamin Gibbard sings abstract tales of maturity and woes to produce a universally relatable message.
Instead of a powerful comeback, it’s curious to find a solemn retreat as the forefront of the album. Amidst the recent troubles the band has undergone (ex-guitarist Chris Walla’s departure, Gibbard’s divorce from Zooey Deschanel, and their audience’s subpar response to DCFC’s previous album “Cold and Keys,” etc.), the record gives off a vibe of abandonment. That isn’t to say, however, that the album is a total failure. In fact, it’s as signature as DCFC can get.
Well known for its trademark indie-rock vibe, DCFC presents a comeback, with enough of a stylistic twist brought by producer Rich Costey (Foster the People, Foo Fighters) that devoted listeners can openly welcome. There are moderate overlays of folk, chill alternative rock, and electronica that spice up the main indie feel. Otherwise, “Kintusgi” remains loyal to DCFC’s customary abstract ideas and poetic lyrics. The album is a stabilizer among its predecessors; songs in the set list reflect an overall theme of somber reflection set in stone rather than raw, disorganized emotional spillage.
The record opens with the song “No Room in Frame,” which presents an interesting commencement of an ethereal ambience, accompanied with electronic fizzes and odd chord changes.
Gibbard sings of loss with “how can I stay in the sun when the rain flows all through my veins,” that is mirrored in other tracks. The desolate mood and repetitive drone of electric guitar plucking patterns (Nick Harmer) and rumbling percussions (Jason McGerr) remain consistent throughout the album. There are, however, inclusions of instrumental climaxes that sometimes overwhelm the soft-spoken vocals. In this, I appreciated quieter songs that highlighted the woodsy timbre of Gibbard’s vocals.
The track “Hold No Guns” captivated me with its delicate atmosphere and warmth that Gibbard’s quavering voice crooned near the end of phrases. The acoustic backdrop plucked at my heartstrings and produced a familiar feel to “Follow Me into the Dark.”
“Kintsugi” is huskier than DCFC’s usual approach in terms of overall message and production. The record may satisfy a majority of loyal DCFC fans with its poetic justice; however, the mediocre work will attract no more than a sparse audience looking into the indie-rock realm. DCFC’s apex has long gone and the album is a respectable attempt at reviving the band’s hype—just not enough.
If anything, I’d return to the classic “Transatlanticism” (2003) for my DCFC craving.