Death Cab for Cutie is certainly a band many of us grew up listening to – especially if you’re a reader in your twenties and you liked comforting songs during your high school days. Going into their new album without high expectations is not exactly easy with the departure of founding member Chris Walla.
Thank You for Today has it ups and downs, and some fans might just want to say “No thanks, you can keep it, Gibbard” upon hearing the opening track, “I Dreamt We Spoke Again.” It comes off as being a Foster the People influenced track, which might not have been intentional. It’s lyrically dull and it’s missing that warm and comforting quirky sound found on earlier works of the band.
Hopefully, fans don’t listen to this one in order – get that shuffle going on Spotify. This album is all over the place, but it definitely has some diamonds in the rough. You just have to ride it out and go on a hunt. Front man Ben Gibbard still has a story to tell, and yes, it will make you cry. You just need to give it a chance.
“Gold Rush” is not a diamond – that’s for sure. It feels like it’s trying to come off the album, Woodstock by Portugal. The Man at the beginning. After the intro, the song breaks into a highly repetitive and lyrically lazy loop of monotony. It “didn’t used to be this way” guys. What’s up with the vocal editing, too?
Please, understand that this album is worth listening to despite it’s downfalls, though. “Your Hurricane” breaks through the otherwise influentially confused tracks. It breaks out with the lines, “Heaven is a hole in the sky / The stars are cracks in the ceiling of night,” and it could easily be put up there with some of Death Cab’s hit songs such as “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark” and “Soul Meets Body.” With its calming instrumentals and heartfelt lyrics, it’s a keeper.
Moving on, “Autumn Love” on top of “Your Hurricane” has highly memorable lyrics, and if Autumn songs are a thing, this one will be one that should get some spins. It’s one of a handful of songs on the record that is easy to sing along to. Do so while you are in line for something pumpkin spiced flavored, like, “Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.”
Back to flaws, though. “When We Drive” simply sounds like a car commercial meeting a toned-down Killers’ song. With its repetition – something that seems to bring this album down more than anything – it just drags on and on. The same vibes can be found on “You Moved Away,” which just feels like a rehashing of any old coming of age song. Is it bad? No. It’s just cliché.
“Summer Years” and “Northern Lights” could have been absolutely incredible tracks; however, both seem to just fall flat. The constant repetition of the instrumentals are arrows to the heart of this album. The lyrics are incredible, yet both just feel like something is missing. This is not to say that “Summer Years” doesn’t have a killer instrumental bridge, though. Let’s get our guitars out for that one. There’s some pretty nice lyrics on “Northern Lights,” too. The piano and background vocals are a nice touch as well.
Again, is this album a complete flop? No, it’s for sure not. “Near/Far” manages to be the song on the album that seems to bring in risky more pop-like instrumentals while complimenting Gibbard’s vocals quite well. The instrumentals, despite being repetitive, nicely play along with the familiar haunting vocals of Gibbard’s. In this case, it manages to be dark and positive at the same time.
The crowning achievement of this record has to be “60 & Punk.” With lyrics that feel like a bittersweet goodbye, it is a flawless closing track. With a piano that nearly perfectly fits with Gibbard’s cathartic lyrics, it is liable to make you cry. The line, “Were you happier when you poor?” leaves listeners wondering who the song is for exactly, or if it is also referring to himself.
In the end, Thank You for Today is Ben Gibbard’s mid-life crisis. Like anybody else, Gibbard has his flaws – ones he has been open about in the present and past. The album is certainly scattered, but it makes a listener question…is it supposed to be that way?
Favorite Tracks: “Your Hurricane,” “Autumn Love,” “Near/Far,” and “60 & Punk”
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