Kintsugi

Posted in Music on May 26th, 2015 by Tom

Death_Cab_For_Cutie_-_Kintsugi

Having followed music the way that I do for a few years now, I should stop being surprised when a band actually bounces back from an album I thought was not-that-great to produce something amazing and wonderful that you can’t put down (Ed. Note: See reviews of Shout Out Louds and Frightened Rabbit). I’m happy to add DCFC to those ranks with a ringing endorsement of Kintsugi. I didn’t expect to have a lot of strong feelings about this record, to be honest. Codes And Keys didn’t really blow me away, and my life lacked the emotional turmoil that usually precipitates an Acute Deathcab Event.

Next thing you know, though, ‘Black Sun’ is on the radio, and I’m thinking “that’s not so bad,” and the full album is in my ears before I think anything of it. For a bit of background on the album, including the recently transpired amicable departure of producer/musician Chris Walla from the band, this is a decent writeup. We’ll get on to talking about the music that resulted, though. I found plenty to like initially on the record. ‘No Room In Frame’ is the opener, and while it might be tempting to read into this as a lament for the now-deffunct Gibbard/Deschanel marriage, I feel like that’s too hot of a take for your lowly author. I like the guitar hook, though.


‘Everything’s a Ceiling’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

My favorite song on the whole album is ‘Everything’s a Ceiling‘. It’s my habit to hear the melody and instrumentation first, and lyrics after, so on the 7th or 8th time through the record when I started to pick up on their weird digging motif, I was pretty confused. Of course, if you actually pay attention to the context, it makes perfect sense. The narrative of the singer being abandoned by his digging partner/lover in the fruits of their labor only to understand that person to be repeating the process elsewhere is a solid concept on which some of my favorite lyrical turns are built:

and I’ve got nowhere to go except further below
so I keep digging
and it gets darker everyday
but I see no other way than just committing

and if the earth is as round as they say
then I won’t find another place
from where I break back through
that’s farther away from you

I know it’s the physicist in me, but the identification that the furthest two points on a spherical surface can possibly be is the diameter seemed a clever observation to make in a song like this. There’s some other parts of the song that are also very closely tied to the geometry of literally being in a deep hole. The composition really won me over, with the lyrics perfectly suited to the melody and tone.


‘Good Help (Is So Hard To Find)’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Good Help (Is So Hard To Find)‘ follows immediately, becoming I think the only DCFC song I’ve ever felt compelled to dance to. I really enjoyed the varied textures of the guitar work on this track, in spite of not being able to make heads or tales of the lyrical content. The ‘El Dorado’/’Ingenue’ combo is the only area of the record I lose a little interest in. Both tracks, the former in spite of a driving line of percussion, feel slightly dragging. One could argue they’re necessary though, to slow the pace to a point where a track like ‘Binary Sea’ becomes appropriate.

It’s a relatively unadorned track, compared with the trappings its predecessors have, but this seems to buttress the theme of the song. Listening to it a few times, I can’t help but feel I am the precise target of the sentiments expressed within the song. Most people alive today spent the majority of their lives in a pre-internet age of slide rules and shelves full of encyclopedias. A smaller, but growing fraction of people have lived most of their lives post-internet- viewing with some respect but also occasionally (as in the song) derision these arcane things that used to make the world go (landline phones, checkbooks, etc.). It’s weird to belong to the cohort straddling that sea change and the track captures some of the eeriness and unease which that entails.

Ed.’s Note:
I had this record in pretty heavy rotation when it came out almost a year ago. In fact, I’ve back-dated this entry to when I wrote the bulk of it back in May, 2015. It took nearly a year to come back and punch this up for publishing (4/4/2016), but I was actually really enjoying giving Kintsugi a couple more spins to get in the headspace to finish my comments. It’s a good one, even if my review is a little late to the game.

Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi

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