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CD of The Week

Week of 9/19/22

    Death Cab For Cutie - Asphalt Meadows (Atlantic)

    Now ten albums into their career, Death Cab for Cutie have become an institution, influencing countless bands in the 00s to join the booming indie music scene. They’re back once more with Asphalt Meadows, a collection of songs full of anxiety and longing… so a Death Cab album.

    The calling card of Death Cab albums is the balance between their melodic pop-rock and surrounding it with interesting production. That ratio is the primary difference between each record (and has tipped towards the former since producer/multi-instrumentalist Chris Walla left the band years ago). Lead single “Roman Candles” surprises with discordant noise mirroring the anxiety in Ben Gibbard’s words.

    “Here to Forever” is a classic, melodic DCfC song, starting off with one of those left-field observations that catch your ear, which have been a Gibbard calling card forever. He states that whenever he watches old movies, “There's only one thought that swirls around my head now … everyone there on the screen/Well, they're all dead now.”

    The title track is built under those always reliable drums of Jason McGerr, steadily pushing the song forward a bit faster than you realize, while “Foxglove Through the Clearcut” feels like a cousin of R.E.M.’s “Low” but with the guitars turned up.

    Asphalt Meadows highlight “I Miss Strangers” puts Death Cab among the ranks of bands grappling with writing about the pandemic era without being too on-the-nose about it. While quarantining from the world, Gibbard realizes that even more than spending time with friends, he misses being part of society in general. “But these days I miss strangers more than I, more than I miss my friends / And the waves of conversations breaking on the shores of my head again.”

    The record wraps up with “I’ll Never Give Up on You,” a straightforward declaration of devotion lyrically – “I've given up on aspiration/And I've given up on ever being cool/I gave up the drugs that made me restless/Oh and the alcohol that made me cruel/But … I’ll never give up on you.” However, the heavy groove, pianos and epic overall finale turn it into a powerful mantra.

    All in all, you know what you’re getting from Death Cab for Cutie in 2022: either jangling mid-tempo rockers or introspective moments set to delicate guitars. And while many bands have attempted this formula over the past 20 years, no one has quite cracked the code or held the keys like DCfC.

    Death Cab for Cutie will return to Philly to play The Met on September 29th.
    Review by Joey O.

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