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Death Cab for Cutie
Codes and Keys - ATLANTIC
FILTER Grade: 80%

By Laura Studarus on May 31, 2011


For their seventh, Death Cab for Cutie haven’t thought outside the box so much as slowly pressed against the sides, rounding out their predictably melodic rock with additional keyboards, primitive electronics and a happiness that’s no longer muttered out of the side of the mouth, but placed front and center. Ben Gibbard’s lyrical observations may err on the side of banal (“St. Peter’s Cathedral” is bested line-for-line by the previous DCFC album’s similar ode to death and architecture, “Bixby Canyon Bridge.”), but it’s still a very pretty package.

Perhaps the charm of Codes and Keys stems from the clever recycling of tropes—both musical and thematic. Deftly skirting outright retread, “Doors Unlocked and Open,” sounds like the photo negative version of “We Laugh Indoors”; “Monday Morning” shares DNA with “Your New Twin Sized Bed”; and the extended opening of “Unobstructed Views” replaces the driving baseline of “I Will Possess Your Heart” with a gently cresting piano-based melody. While some may argue this represents a lack of advancement for the band, Death Cab For Cutie have always sold themselves on equal parts cracked hearts and crumpled love notes. While the angst has segued to acceptance, and the letters have long since been tucked away, the show must go on—and it does, beautifully.

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