Music Review – Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie

There’s a reason Rebecca Black didn’t sing about Mondays, amiright?

Anyway, welcome back to Tellurian Things, your bi-weekly dose of pop-culture critique and general dramatic snark. Today, we’ll be investigating the latest album by one of my favorite bands – Death Cab. A new feature I’m adding to this blog is “Snap Judgments,” a couple-sentence review of the subject, located at the end of the blog. Just remember folks: I’m doing this for you.
So, Codes and Keys starts out decently enough with “Home is a Fire.” I feel like this is only a solid track, somewhat in the vein of Plans, which was only a solid album. It’s somewhat fast-paced, but not really upbeat. But, this being Death Cab, I keep listening. The next track, “Codes and Keys,” is similarly decent. It sounds like something else… Rilo Kiley maybe? That’s what I think. But again, this is good, and more “classic Death Cab.” Not sure why it’s the title track, but whatever.
The third track, “Some Boys,” is one of my favorites. I find myself whistling it constantly. Both in terms of sound and content, it is reminiscent of Transatlanticism. It mixes an upbeat sound with a melancholy theme – how young boys hurt young girls with their “love ’em and leave ’em,” ways. I. Love. This. Song. “Doors Unlocked and Open,” is also really fun, vaguely Narrow Stairs-ian. “You Are a Tourist,” has a really fun guitar melody that gets stuck in your head, but for some reason I find the lyrics utterly forgettable. “Unobstructed Views” takes quite a while to even HAVE lyrics. This song would fit very well on Transatlanticism, but I’m not sure why it’s here. To me, it seems like the album was building a nice momentum and this slow, largely instrumental song kind of kills it. It’s good, but still.
“Monday Morning,” however, is STELLAR. I like to think it’s about Zooey Deschanel, with lyrics like “She may be young but she only likes old things, and modern music – it ain’t to her taste.” This is probably the most happy Death Cab song I’ve ever heard. It acknowledges that Ben Gibbard isn’t still a young guy destined to break hearts and die alone. He is, in fact, a happily married man with an incredible wife. This song is about growing old with that woman, who doesn’t even know how great she is.
The rest of the album passes quickly. “Portable Television,” returns to the “finding meaning in really random crap left on the side of the road” well, which is a compliment. “Underneath the Sycamore” is pretty standard DCFC fare, which again is a compliment. “St. Peter’s Cathedral” is great. It builds slowly from a simplistic song to something interesting and complex. The final song, “Stay Young, Go Dancing,” is an excellent note to end on. Beautiful, hopeful, catchy, and again possibly about Zooey. 
If you’re not a fan of Death Cab, this album isn’t going to change your mind. If you are a fan of Death Cab, this album isn’t going to change your mind. It’s no Transatlanticism, but then that’s one of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard so there’s no shame in that. This album is great. A little short, and it lacks a “Cath,” or a “Brothers on a Hotel Bed,” (two of their best songs, ever), I also find that it’s far more consistent than either Plans or Narrow Stairs. The fact that the best songs are hopeful and happy is somewhat strange, but has me excited that future albums might stray from the melancholy (or perhaps melodramatic) feel of previous DCFC, and into new territory. All in all, a solid album.

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