Death Cab for Cutie: Thank You for Today review – comforting alt-rock melancholia

(Atlantic)

It’s almost exactly 20 years since Death Cab for Cutie released their first album, Something About Airplanes, on the tiny Barsuk label. The intervening years saw them sign to a major label, get nominated for Grammys and become poster boys for canvas-haversack-toting mopey emo kids everywhere. But nine albums in, and Ben Gibbard and co are no longer kids themselves, and their nostalgia has a decidedly autumnal feel.

Gibbard can recall being 22 and “Trying so hard to play it cool” (60 & Punk), and reflects that “Sometimes I’m overcome by every choice I couldn’t outrun” (Summer Years). The dilemmas that are faced are adult ones: “I don’t need you to be honest / Or to be faithful to the end / I just need you to be always a friend,” Gibbard sings on When We Drive.

At this point, Death Cab have settled into a sound that eschews experimentation: in a sense this is MOR music. Nothing surprises, nothing jolts, but it’s so expertly judged, such a warm fug of melancholia, that it’s all but irresistible, like slipping into delicious self-pity. The melodies are gorgeous, never overdone but always foregrounded: you would get almost nothing from the individual elements, from the bass, the guitar, the keyboards and the voice, but they add up to much more than the sum of their parts. It’s not that it sounds like 80s adult rock, but there’s something of artists like Bruce Hornsby and the Range here – something welcoming and accepting that feels awfully appealing.

Contributor

Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

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