Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

July 20, 2013

Death Cab For Cutie ~ Codes & Keys

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Style: alt rock
Label: Atlantic
Year: 2011
Home: Bellingham, Washington

Members: Benjamin Gibbard ~ vocals/guitar/keyboards
Chris Walla ~ guitar/keyboards/b. vocals
Nicholas Harmer ~ bass/guitar
Jason McGerr ~ drums

Additional: Magik*Magik Orchestra ~ strings
Krish Lingala ~ oboe/theremin

Upbeat yet slow & steady ballads with a reflective inner tone that rides prominently through the music at all times ... in a voice that reminds me of the Pet Shops Boys but without the dance beat, though some songs feature electronic percussion (i.e. "Home Is A Fire"). The fact that the whole album tends to be heavy ambiance synth focused over guitar driven or solo filled, let alone more hypnotic than lots of in your face typical rock changes doesn't help but keep the later day Pet Shop Boys image in my head while listening. Note I say later day as this is more serious, akin to later day Pet Shop Boys, & not tongue in cheek or camp, which is earlier Pet Shop Boys. Speaking of guitars, for an alt rock band this is probably as sparse & barren as one can really get, while everything is drenched in ambiance making no real instrument stand out. Everything is about texture not focus, outside of the vocals which are without doubt the focus & lone driving instrument. It's a sound landscape with slightly tweaked vocals gliding over it all. Everything flows gently, blending, not really climaxing. One review out there mentions Brian Eno & that might not be too bad of a comparison. Though, at times I hear the textures that might be more akin to U2, but where The Edge's guitar is tucked into the mix (for example, "Doors Unlocked & Open"). I've always considered DCFC a bit too melancholy for my tastes & that's still kinda my view, but I appreciate their non-traditional sound on this album & it's more addicting than not. But, this is such a subtle layered album I can't imagine how the songs transfer to the stage & retain their feeling. While there is a point where pushing this Eno-esque textured sound any farther could make the whole experiment sound cold. I should note I'm not biased by either loving them or hating DCFC ... considering founder Ben Gibbard went to Western Washington University the same time that I did & it's likely we crossed paths. I remember seeing DCFC in the locals only music charts, but I left to go abroad in 2002 before they became famous. Returning four years later it was kinda funny seeing this band that for me was just a bunch of local boys from a small town in Washington suddenly appearing on TV suddenly really famous. Good for them, though it still is funny for me to see.

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