Death Cab for Cutie - Asphalt Meadows Music Album Reviews

Death Cab for Cutie - Asphalt Meadows Music Album Reviews
At last, the band’s 10th album restores their creative momentum. If the songs don’t feel as lived-in, at least they unlock the repressed memory of what it was like to be deeply moved by Death Cab for Cutie.

These days Ben Gibbard is often seen as synonymous with his band, which itself is often synonymous with an entire moment in aughts pop culture. Gibbard has been admirably candid about the personal turmoil he suffered while creating Death Cab for Cutie’s most beloved music, in contrast to the sobriety and equilibrium he experiences now—challenging fans to consider what they miss about “the old Death Cab.” But the existential burden of being in a massively popular band with dwindling acclaim has lightened over the past three years. Gibbard was one of the first artists to embrace quarantine livestreaming in early 2020, airing 22 “Live From Home” episodes where he revisited deep cuts from early LPs like We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes. The outward commitment to fan service proves clever cover for Death Cab for Cutie to make the kind of record they’ve strived for since the departure of guitarist and producer Chris Walla in 2014: a restoration of their creative momentum when a mere “return to form” would have sufficed.

Though life in quarantine informs the bulk of Asphalt Meadows, nothing is as direct as Gibbard’s 2020 solo track “Life in Quarantine”—what could be? If the “Live From Home” project didn’t produce any essential solo material, its goodwill carries over to the opening of Asphalt Meadows, lending humanity to lines that might otherwise read as generalities: “These nights, I don’t know how I survive,” “I am learning to let go of everything I tried to hold.” After nearly a year of letting fans inside his house, Gibbard grants himself permission to be the main character of his own music. It’s a marked contrast to everything Death Cab has done since 2011’s Codes and Keys, the band’s weakest album according to Gibbard and also the one most closely associated with his personal life.

The introductory duo of “I Don’t Know How I Survive” and “Roman Candles” position Asphalt Meadows as a clean break from the slick competence of Kintsugi and Thank You for Today. The former teases itself as the kind of Silly Putty funk-pop that shared space with their 2010s singles “Northern Lights” and “Black Sun” on New Indie playlists before rupturing into the loudest guitar buzz ever heard on a Death Cab for Cutie album. A flurry of martial drum rolls breaks through the fuzz bass exhaust on “Roman Candles,” reflecting on how long Death Cab have been described as “indie rock” and never rawked before.

It’s tempting to grant the bulk of credit to producer John Congleton, whose CV immediately resituates Asphalt Meadows into a flattering lineage of cerebral, populist indie rock. It’s a canny pairing—Congleton’s taste for textural, handcrafted intricacy and judicious distortion isn’t all that different than Walla’s studio approach, and Congleton likewise understands the importance of feel in Death Cab for Cutie’s music; past songs could’ve relocated you to the back of a gray subcompact or a tomblike Seattle apartment even if they were instrumentals. Whereas Kintsugi and Thank You for Today sounded primped for alt-rock radio, Asphalt Meadows goes places: The Canadian prairie basks in a warm, amber glow on “Wheat Like Waves,” and eerie sampledelia mirrors the collaging of digital memories on “Fragments From the Decade.” The despondent title track stares blankly upon urban bustle, recreating the sound of being stuck on the I-10 even better than the Death Cab songs explicitly written about Los Angeles.

Still, you don’t do guest spots with Chance the Rapper and Noah Cyrus without picking up a few things. “I’ll Never Give Up on You” neatly resolves Gibbard’s public stances on clean living and politics over a concussive electro-pop stomp more suited to close out a Mission Impossible movie than a Death Cab for Cutie album. It’s an allowable indulgence on a record that mostly satisfies through course correction. “Here to Forever” and “Pepper” are pleasant exemplars of the band’s new default mode, exchanging the ocean spray of the Pacific Northwest for the silvery cool of New Order and the Cure, verses flecked with quintessential Gibbardisms in contrast to the broad and occasionally blasé hooks (“Kiss me just this one last time/Tell me that you once were mine”).

Likewise, while Gibbard returns to familiar images throughout the more cinematic tracks—analog maps, endless highways, ’80s pop playing on a busted car stereo—they don’t feel as lived in or lived through. Inevitably, he’s writing at a degree of remove from the stoned and starving road trippers on “Rand McNally” and “Wheat Like Waves”; anyone who’s been listening to Death Cab for the past 20 years is in the same position. But if Asphalt Meadows doesn’t amplify the stakes of forty-something romantic misunderstandings the way “A Movie Script Ending” or “Title and Registration” did in college, it at least unlocks the repressed memory of what it was like to be deeply moved by Death Cab for Cutie songs.

Yet Asphalt Meadows’ fuzzy glow of nostalgia is outshone by the halo effect of “Foxglove Through the Clearcut.” Though Gibbard’s lyrics are frequently conversational—written in complete sentences that stretch melodic containment to its breaking point—this is the first time he’s actually talking. In a bemused, cosmic mutter akin to Aaron Weiss or, more likely, Cassandra Jenkins’ “Hard Drive,” he accompanies a man of enormous ideas and few words. They ponder eternity, the grim jest of mankind, and the limits of manifest destiny. “He said he’d driven all the way across America/And when he got to thе edge, therе was nowhere left to go,” Gibbard recites, as if to say: Tell me more. Where previous Death Cab epics would edge toward the vast unknown and stop short, “Foxglove Through the Clearcut” bursts into unrepentant post-rock fireworks, creating a late-career masterwork that might finally knock “Bixby Canyon Bridge” or “Transatlanticism” out of their roles as set-closers. Death Cab have made plenty of great songs in the past decade, but “Foxglove Through the Clearcut” stands alone as proof of what Gibbard has worked so long to accomplish: The scope of Death Cab is so much bigger than anyone, including himself, could imagine.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Death Cab for Cutie - Asphalt Meadows Music Album Reviews Death Cab for Cutie - Asphalt Meadows Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on September 28, 2022 Rating: 5


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