16 May 2008

Narrow Stairs: A tough climb

I'm honestly surprised at the number of reviews so suddenly flung out into the blogosphere about Narrow Stairs. Honestly, it's a hard album to get into. It starts with an 8-minute, mostly instrumental song as only the second song in. Having the longest song up front is bold. Perhaps not so bold for your average Rush fan, but for established fans of the already much-belov'd indie group, this can come as a shocker.

It does not scream "Death Cab" the minute you throw it on, unlike "Title Track," the killer opener to "We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes." It's certainly no "Transatlanticism," nor "Plans"--though it does have strong elements of both. It does not grab you immediately. It takes several thorough listens to penetrate. But once you get there, it's well worth it.

Gems like "Your New Twin-Sized Bed" are the aural accompaniment to "We Looked Like Giants" and "Summer Skin;" they appear to be cut from a similar cloth. While "Pity and Fear" uses novel percussion--and ends with an abrupt, ragged cut-off--it leaves a minor, haunting emptiness often found echoing behind Gibbard's ever-nasal croons.

This 25-minute behind-the-scenes/making-of is a nice inside to what's really going on, philosophically, behind the ever-evolving group:

Death Cab for Cutie - Cath....m4a
Death Cab for Cutie - Your New Twin-Sized Bed.m4a

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