Death Cab for Cutie
4.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: May 13, 2008
Death Cab for Cutie has made their most experimental, versatile and best album yet with Narrow Stairs. Having survived the freshman effort on major label Atlantic with 2005’s Plans, Death Cab for Cutie return with a collection of stronger songs, stellar performance and near-perfect production.
What stands out most about Narrow Stairs is the band’s complete disregard for rules. Even with major label Atlantic behind them, the band still continues to take chances and refrain from the expected. Their first single “I will Possess Your Heart” was over eight-minutes in length and even though the novelty has worn off in the month since the single was released, listening to it in the context of this album makes it fresh once again. As track two on the album, “I Will Possess You Heart” sets the experimental stage for the collection of songs that follow.
For fans of singer Ben Gibbard’s lyrical poetry, Narrow Stairs still contains his trademark heartbreak, however this time around things are more optimistic, rather than despairing. Just listen to “You Can Do Better Than Me,” which transitions seamlessly into “Grapevine Fires.” The positivity is almost strangely out of place as Gibbard sings, “The firemen worked in double shifts. With prayers for rain on their lips. And they knew it was only a matter of time.” These themes run through the entire album.
Produced by Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla, who has recently worked with The Decemberists and Tegan & Sara, Narrow Stairs is a sonic and creative leap forward for Death Cab for Cutie. Much like Transatlanticism was a period of growth for the band after The Photo Album, Narrow Stairs delivers what Plans could not; indie rock songs that expand and blur the genre. Narrow Stairs sounds completely original and it is clear that Death Cab for Cutie has once again found itself after the predictability of Plans.
– Jonathan Keller