Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie was bound to go major eventually. What's remarkable is that it took so long for the Bellingham, WA band to make the jump to the big leagues, as it has at last with Plans. This is the band's fifth LP, six years removed from its first, but the same sepia-toned songwriting hasn't changed with time (or major contracts), and Ben Gibbard's winsome melodies still make heartsickness go down like lullabies. Yes, Plans is slick, but Chris Walla's knobs have been twiddling that way for a while: Whatever rawness the band had in the early days was long ago smoothed over, and the band was radio-friendly from the start anyway.

First single "Soul Meets Body" is vintage post-Postal Service DCFC--sharp beats and hooks mixed gauzy and played against Gibbard's yearning tenor--but it's catchy like vintage New Order, and the song deserves to be huge. Most of the other tracks exude a familiar, mid-tempo dreaminess with the standout exception being the stark, acoustic "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." DCFC is typically quiet these days, its mood hushed and private, but in an increasingly routine, electro-folk way. But it's this song, the one that sees the band stripping away the studio trickery and going for real quiet, real privacy, that turns out the loudest. "I Will Follow..." carries like a whisper in a suddenly silent room. It stays with you. The song is major.

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Maya Singer