Plans CD - Atlantic

Death Cab for Cutie is one of those bands that really confounded me for a long time. Why the legions of teenage fans lining up for sold-out shows? Why is do they inspire such devotion, and at the same time such vehement hatred? Curiosity piqued, I downloaded numerous songs and found them all to be rather boring and disappointing. I then allowed myself to be cajoled into purchasing 2003's much-hyped Transatlanticism, an album that sold over 300,000 copies. It languished on the shelf. Then I made a rather embarrassing discovery that shed light on both Death Cab's admirers and detractors: The O.C. The references to Death Cab for Cutie in the first two seasons of that show are so constant you might as well play a drinking game. Like when Seth Cohen announces that he's written a song to the tune of Death Cab's "A Lack of Colour." Better still is Summer's scathing assessment of a Death Cab song playing in the car: "It's like, one guitar and a really whiny voice." The teen soap's immense popularity has undoubtedly paid off big for Ben Gibbard and Co., which led the band to sign to Atlantic Records for their much-anticipated fifth release, Plans. To my great surprise, Plans completely reversed my ambivalent feelings for the band. Quite simply, it's lovely. You won’t find a single unexpected note on Plans, but this complete lack of innovation is not in any way detrimental. It's almost as if they finally got a hang of their sound and stretched it as far as it could go. Death Cab still writes the kind of maudlin, introspective music that is the perfect soundtrack to a long bus trip or a broken heart. Gibbard's ever-sappy lovesick lyrics are as eloquent as ever and the slow piano remains ubiquitous. The first two tracks so immediately create an emotional tug that the one-guitar-and-whiny-voice songs such as "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" slip by unnoticed, interspersed with other gems like "What Sarah Said." The record ends rather anti-climactically as the ill-chosen "Stable Song" somewhat diminishes the desire to press the repeat button when the album grinds to an abrupt halt. Perhaps we'll see Death Cab attempt a little something different on their next record, but for now they're sticking with what they know works. (Alana Coates)



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