Yes, the indie pop band that set a million kids’ tongues wagging is back
with a new album, and they've set their sights on the pinnacle of
indie rock stardom. The young, Seattle-based quartet has had a
relatively short and effortless climb so far; last year’s We Have the Facts and
We’re Voting Yes landed at the top of many critics’ "Best Of" lists, while
the band rolled along in their van, playing sold-out shows all across
America. DCFC mania was truly upon us. Hell, even my
mother, who normally hates everything I listen to, mentioned how
much she liked the record.
After all that (not to mention the release of their Forbidden Love EP), it
certainly would have been easy enough for the band to sit back and enjoy
their newfound success. Instead, they decided to strike while the
proverbial iron was hot, and headed straight back into the studio -- emerging several months later with The Photo Album.
If there were one major criticism to be levied against We Have the
Facts..., it would be that the record simply didn’t have enough oomph.
Sure, the songs were well recorded and smartly crafted, and Ben Gibbard’s
lyrics were wry and self-deprecating, but on the whole it lacked any real
punch. Fortunately, this malady has been all but alleviated on The
Photo Album. Gibbard’s lyrics still pack the same emotional wallop, and
Chris Walla’s production is still pristine, but the band has revealed a seething,
visceral, rocking side of their music. They trade
their cardigans for leather pants on the staccato guitar-driven
"Blacking Out the Friction", then kick things up a notch with the
chugging, dissonance-laced "I was a Kaleidoscope". While their method
of rocking might not seem as exciting as, say, AC/DC, it is nevertheless
a new and exciting component in DCFC’s arsenal.
As far as old weapons are concerned, their knack for penning a sublimely
simple yet amazingly effective melody comes across beautifully on the
hushed opener, "Steadier Footing", and the swooning "Information Travels
Faster". Lyrically, the record alternates between doe-eyed and
starstruck ("Movie Script Ending") and bitter and cynical ("Styrofoam
Plates"), wholly dependant on singer/guitarist Gibbard’s wildly
Longtime DCFC fans will undoubtedly embrace The Photo Album as
another shimmering jewel in Death Cab for Cutie’s canon, while those
who didn't care much for the band before probably won’t find themselves
dancing in the streets praising this latest effort. But to quote the
popular adage, it’s the little things that count. While the changes
the band has made here are small, they are nevertheless the key
factor that transforms The Photo Album from a charming pop album into a
shimmering Album Of The Year contender.