Sunday, May 25, 2008

Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs

Artist: Death Cab For Cutie
Album: Narrow Stairs
Released: May 2008
Label: Atlantic
Style: Umm...Corporate Indie? I think they call that Alternative..
Buy From: Anywhere, it's not like they're on an indie label or anything.

Track List
1. Bixby Canyon Bridge 5:15
2. I Will Possess Your Heart 8:25
3. No Sunlight 2:40
4. Cath... 3:49
5. Talking Bird 3:23
6. You Can Do Better Than Me 1:59
7. Grapevine Fires 4:08
8. Your New Twin Sized Bed 3:06
9. Long Division 3:49
10. Pity And Fear 4:21
11. The Ice Is Getting Thinner 3:45

Ok, since I had such harsh words for the new single off Death Cab For Cutie's new album, Narrow Stairs, I decided I should say some nice things about the album overall. Despite the bands inevitable fall to a major label, abandoning their former Barsuk in favor of an international contract with Atlantic (read: CHING CHING MOTHERFUCKERS $_$), they are still very talented musicians, and no amount of corporate influence can take that voice away from Ben Gibbard.

Though I must say, the money's got some strange things coming out of his mouth these days. Narrow Stairs has got to be one of the most emotionally charged albums I've heard from them, and that's saying a lot considering the content of most of their earlier albums. Considering Gibbard is making more money now than he ever has in his whole life, you'd think he might start writing happy songs finally. Or maybe even a cool, kind-of-jammy singalong like Transatlanticism turns into at the end of the title track. Anything, but I guess that emo stuff sells, so what can you do?

This one hits those heartstrings heard though. I think it's probably a combination of a few things for me. First, this album is so epic. There's all kinds of build-ups that end in a capella, Gibbard hooks, or the 6-minute lead in on Possess Your Heart. I know I already talked extensively on that lead in, but seriously it doesn't get any more epic than that. And to seal the deal, the production crew at Atlantic is flawless; they really know how to make those notes hit home with ringing clarity.

Still though, it's all about that voice. I've been listening to all their older material and the new album on shuffle, just to try and pick out the differences, and really..I don't hear much besides the production quality and some major label garbage that just has to be there - e.g. the breakdown on Possess Your Heart; why does that part sound so horrible to me? Anyway, my point is I don't care what the albums sound like from now on, it's not bad and all I care about is Gibbard's voice. As long as he keeps singing, I'll keep listening to their albums. Case closed.

Edit 5/27/08 : Ok, so I continued my DCFC-discography, shuffled playlist and I decided that this is definitely not the most emotionally charged album I've heard. It is very well engineered, and those emo hooks are quite..emotional, but nothing compares to the raw power of Tiny Vessels and the rest of the tracks on Transatlanticism. Perhaps my pain, reminiscing of my teenage years first hearing that album, is blurring my judgment. I'm glad they didn't have emo when I was a teenager. We were all indie kids, united under one name! Now there's a million tiny scenes to be part of - screamo, emo, hardcore, grunge, grindcore, diy punk, no wave etc - some of which have just been re-adopted by todays youth. Unbeknownst to them, they're not doing anything new or unique. Just dividing themselves up into different categories, further separating themselves from one another by drawing imaginary lines in the sand based on what bands they like. Then they all talk shit on each other, that's the worst part. The state of "the scene" today is weak, man. Where is the love?

In closing, I just want to say this: I think emo is an attempt for music corporations to recover from the idea of naming a genre (indie, short for independent, as in independent label) based on the fact that the music isn't released on a major, or even well-known, label. Now, instead of indie-kids, they're emo-kids. All the music being released on Atlantic, and other big labels, that would normally have been classified as indie, is emo. The connotations are sickening though. I mean, seriously, what band isn't making music that is emotional? That's why we make music; we're emotional creatures, and we need to express ourselves. It's just ridiculous to say "These people over here are emotional." What does that mean for the rest of us? It means nothing, because emo is a made-up term (bastard step-child of the old punk scene, and I won't get into that but you can read about it elsewhere) that has been capitalized upon by music corporations. It means nothing now, and I wish all the black-haired, hoodie-wearing, myspace-supporting youths of our nation would wise up to this, and stop lining music corporation pockets with their misguided emotions.

Nothing against Death Cab though, it sounds like they're doing the same thing they have been all along, except now they're getting paid what they deserve for it. Cheers guys, the new album sounds great to me.

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