There is always something to be said about a great pop song. Pop is often regarded as being synonymous with musical simplicity and can either be painfully generic and banal, or dressed with innovative characteristics that invoke the listener. The local band, Death Cab for Cutie, is definitely the latter, writing catchy pop songs with beautiful-airy melodies and nostalgic lyrics.
The band's third LP release, The Photo Album, (to be released Oct. 9) is a continuation of lead singer/guitarist Ben Gibbard's uncanny ability to put thoughtful, sappy words to enchanting music. Guitarist/keyboardist Christopher Walla, bassist Nicholas Harmer and drummer Michael Schorr join Gibbard in turning ideas into a sound.
The Photo Album really brings to the forefront the talent of the entire band. Walla plays his instruments wonderfully, creating glistening back-drops of sound with his keyboard playing; he also adds neat drum loops and his surreal swells can be heard on the most dynamically varied -- and my personal favorite -- song on the album, "We Laugh in Doors."
Schorr's drumming is always tasty and he never overplays; he would make Ringo a very proud man. And Harmer is a very fluid bass player, keeping it simple while beautifully accompanying Gibbard's outstanding, lush melodic onslaught.
Gibbard, who is the primary songwriter, has evolved as a lyricist (if that was even possible) as he is very apt at conjuring scenery and feelings. In the song "Styrofoam Plates," Gibbard starts singing while accompanied by guitar, "There's a saltwater film on the jar of your ashes / I threw them to sea but a gust blew them backwards / and the sting in my eyes that you then inflicted / was par for the course just as when you were living." The song soon spins off into gorgeous tremolo effects, guitar and piano parts.
The Photo Album is a piece that one could imagine listening to while reminiscing about lost love, childhood hardships and future aspirations -- thoughts often provoked by, (you guessed it) flipping through your personal photo album. There is a sense to this recording that the band has matured a bit, both musically and personally, but is still in that limbo of post-adolescent purgatory, struggling with what to do as men.
Hopefully, the band will still keep its pop sense and continue to write great music.
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