The gossip and personal stories behind the new Death Cab For Cutie album have been widespread knowledge practically since the album was announced last September, so we won’t go into them again, we’ll simply break it down into house moves, new producers, a founding member leaving, and a divorce.
Right then, shall we get onto the album?
Kintsugi is Death Cab For Cuties eighth album and the first that has not been produced by multi-instrumentalist and former member Chris Walla, so immediately Kintsugi is a very different proposition to any previous record the band has released, though not as big a surprise as many would lead you to believe, given the experimental nature with which Death Cab have always worked.
Opening track ‘No Room In Frame’ easing the album in with a fragile, delicate synth intro and the sound of a heart monitor running flat, “I don’t know where to begin…” pines Ben Gibbard in the opening verse, before the swell of a chorus and one of the album’s most personal moments unfolds with ‘was I in your way when the cameras turned to face you?’. ‘Black Sun’ follows in a similar vein lyrically, continuing with some of Gibbard’s most brutally honest words to date, but with a far greater urgency to it to properly kick starting the album.
‘You’ve haunted me all my life’ provides the album’s first acoustic led track, a staple of any Death Cab album. Managing to be both tender and sinister, this is never clearer than during the refrain of “you’ve haunted me all my life, you are the mistress I can’t make a wife”. ‘Hold No Guns’ is Kintsugi’s “I’ll Follow You Into The Dark” before the tone takes a marked shift into the electronic, contemporary sound the band established on 2011’s Codes And Keys on ‘Everything’s a Ceiling’. The second half of the album continues with this trend, and while lyrically the formula remains “seems you finally found El Dorado, so why does it feel underwhelming?” however musically the melodies, the washes of synthesised waves offer a far more optimistic vision than the first half.
There was a lot riding on Kintsugi for Death Cab For Cutie, fans were divided by Codes and Keys and the shift in direction, personal lives were played out unavoidably in the press, Chris Walla leaving, and the added pressure of seven hugely successful albums under their belts. What the band have produced is of course not going to be for everyone, but then Death Cab have always been divisive band, even amongst their own fans; what they have achieved though is a cross section of everything they have tried during their 20 years as a band. There are nods to their early lo-fi emo roots, the natural, heartfelt croons of the Plans era, and the stadium-ready electronic fuelled sound of recent times. For that reason Kintsugi is not a perfect album, but it is brilliant, and will no doubt win over a whole new generation of Death Cab fans while appeasing the old ones too.