The first time I ever heard Death Cab for Cutie was my freshman year of high school. I was given a CD with two DCFC songs on it: “Crooked Teeth” and “Marching Bands Of Manhattan.” I was instantly hooked by their liquid sound and lyrical complexities. One could say I was pretty excited when I heard they were coming out with a new album a few months ago.
“Kintsugi” is a very fluid album. The songs, although distinguishable, seem to be part of a more complex sound. It’s a great album to listen to as you lay back in some nice grass connecting the stars with your eyes. The word kintsugi refers to the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with various precious metals.
The title is a reference to guitarist Chris Walla’s recent departure from the band and speaks to a theme of breaking apart and mending that’s present in most of the album. “No Room in Frame” and “Everything’s a Ceiling” are most notably references to frontman Ben Gibbard’s divorce from Zooey Deschanel and the ways in which his life mended afterwards.
This idea of breaking and mending back together, represented by the album’s title, can be felt through the music. There is a solemness in the tracks which, although not uncommon in past Death Cab songs, seems to take a front seat in this album. This comes through very vividly in “You’ve Haunted Me All My Life” and “El Dorado” which both seem to be sung to figures from the past. They express a sadness about things past yet an acceptance of the present.
I would say that this album feels very “Death Cab-y,” meaning that it fits in very well with the rest of their discography. However that doesn’t mean they didn’t experiment a bit in this album. “Everything’s a Ceiling” has a 70s synth-pop overtone to it that is refreshing.
They play around with the synthesizer sound a little bit in other songs too like in the background of “Black Sun.” “Hold No Guns” seems to have an indie-folk influence that is definitely new for the band and meshes surprisingly well with their sound. “Black Sun” is probably the most “radio friendly” of their songs and is already seeing some decent airplay.
Overall “Kintsugi” is a strong addition to the Death Cab For Cutie line up. It has a lot of solid classic DCFC songs along with a few that try some new sounds with a lot of success.