Death Cab for Cutie released their newest album Kintsugi on March 27 and it proved to be well worth the four-year wait. The album is a blend of Death Cab’s classic, relaxed feel mixed with a slightly more electronic sound, perhaps indicating a retreat to lead singer Ben Gibbard’s days with The Postal Service.
As sad as it might be to say, Gibbard writes his best work when he is fresh off a break up, and his divorce with actress Zooey Deschanel truly helped him write some of his best work, making up for 2011’s flop album Codes and Keys. The Japanese title Kintsugi translates to “golden repair” in reference to the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery and emphasizing the broken section with a golden color. Philosophically, Kintsugi treats breakage and repair as a history to be worn, rather than concealed.
The journey of Kintsugi begins with the song “No Room in Frame,” which starts with a calming drone and the appropriate lyrics, “I don’t know where to begin…” The format of the song fits right into Death Cab’s niche—a simple instrumental accompaniment which transitions into an eventual overwhelming wave of sound. The chorus seems to give insight into Gibbard’s divorce with the question, “Was I in your way when the cameras turned to face you?” Intricate guitar parts are introduced after each chorus, as if to indicate a complicated answer to this looming thought.
Next on the album is the previously released song “Black Sun.” As a single, listeners may have been nervous about the new sounds coming from this track, but it all seemed to make sense once it was incorporated as a piece of Kintsugi. The symbolic lyrics indicate a return to 2005’s “Soul Meets Body” off of the album Plan, while the heavily distorted guitar solo alludes to 2003’s “We Looked like Giants” off of Transatlanticism.
Deeper into the album, listeners can encounter a mix of memorable choruses as well as a series of stimulating slow ballads. “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” delivers with a fast tempo and catchy lyrics, incorporating a simple, one-note guitar accompaniment during the verses. The quick-spoken lyrics and intensity of the chorus portray a similar feeling given by 2008’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” off of Narrow Stairs.
In contrast to this upbeat track, there is “You’ve Haunted Me All My Life,” which introduces deep lyrics and a low-tuned, slowly-repeating acoustic guitar riff. The lyrics, “you are the mistress I can’t make a wife” perhaps add even more insight into Gibbard’s divorce, hinting at the “one that got away” scenario that some listeners may relate to. This “other woman” seems to make her way into the next track “Little Wanderer,” with lyrics like “you’re my wanderer…won’t you wander back to me.”
The remainder of Kintsugi allows listeners to lay back and let their minds wander to complex guitar riffs and Gibbard’s reverberating vocals. “Good Help (Is So Hard To Find)” uses simple, soothing lead guitar riffs—similar to those in “No Room in Frame”—while “El Dorado” joins complicated guitar picking with thought-inducing, lyrical themes. Death Cab ends the album with the piano ballad “Binary Sea,” filled with rich vocal harmonies and the inspiring last line, “So lean in close or lend an ear. There’s something brilliant bound to happen hear.”
Kevin Callan is a third-year student majoring in liberal studies with minors in journalism and music. He can be reached at KC765919@wcupa.edu.