Death Cab For Cutie: Kintsugi Review

death-cab-for-cutie-kintsugiKintsugi def. is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.


It’s also the title of the latest work from indie rock giant, Death Cab for Cutie. It is the first album released from the group since the departure of founding member and guitarist, Chris Walla. Walla’s exit from the band and the title of the album are not at all unrelated. The band is broken, but frontman Ben Gibbard refused to let that hinder their musical ability. And boy, did they deliver.

The whole album is laced with an undertone of sadness and distance most likely related to Walla’s departure and Gibbard’s love life – possibly still recovering from his divorce with Zooey Deschanel in 2012. Gibbard’s ability to convey his emotions musically and lyrically is absolutely unparalleled. For this album this is especially true for the tracks, “No Room in Frame” and “Hold No Guns.” Both are incredibly sincere and you can hear the intent behind the lyrics in the timbre of his voice alone.

Their album prior to Kintsugi, Narrow Stairs, Death Cab made it a point to create a less guitar-centric record. Kintsugi, however, is definitely a departure from that. It still plays with cool sounds and pushes the limits of electronic textures in a standard rock band setting. Something Ben Gibbard is not uncomfortable with based on his side project, the Postal Service.  New textures aside, Kintsugi is still so inherently Death Cab. Their mark is left in all the tracks and it makes you nostalgic for “The Sound of Settling” and “We Laugh Indoors.” The guitar lines that pop, the brilliant Ben Gibbard pre-chorus, and the memory of their 90’s grunge days are all things I love about this band.

Like most of my blogs, this leads me to a nearly unrelated diatribe. Death Cab for Cutie continues to produce music with a certain factor that a lot of modern bands don’t: authenticity. This is something I feel very strongly about and so I end up discussing it a lot, and this is mostly a criticism of the modern pop music machine. A lot of “artists” perform a song, it gets publicized, tons of radio play, and the record company makes a killing. The song goes out of style and the artist is chewed up and spit out by the public. This has cultivated a one-hit-wonder culture in our country that is ruining the music business. A Top 40 artist might produce an album, but that’s only used as a vehicle to deliver their single to our ears. Kintsugi is so carefully stitched together by the band, you can hear every sound, every bass drum hit has a purpose. That’s the kind of music industry that I’d like to see put in place. And there are artists out there that I can make it happen. I believe in you.

Devan is a DJ with KSSU; thoughts and opinions of the DJ may not reflect the station as a whole.

%d bloggers like this: