Album Review: Death Cab For Cutie – Codes & Keys

By Cassandra Paiva

“Codes and Keys”, Death Cab for Cutie’s seventh studio album, will be released on May 31st on Atlantic Records. The album as a whole remains similar to the indie rock band’s typical sound (not saying that’s a bad thing, in fact it’s really a good thing).

First track and second single “Home is A Fire” starts the album off slow and steady and has a rhythm reminiscent of singer Ben Gibbard’s band The Postal Service. “Plates, they will shift / Houses will shake / Fences will droop / We will awake / Only to find / Nothing’s the same” repeats as the chorus and contributes to the trance-like tempo.

The album’s namesake, second song “Codes and Keys” contains a hooking drumbeat and heavy, cabaret-style piano that carries the melody to the end. Violins kick in as harmony to Gibbard’s vocals. “As minor chords of major works / Separate rooms of single life / We are one / We are alive,” are typical of Death Cab lyrics, which make them all the greater.

Much like the previous track, third single “Some Boys” starts and maintains a fixed bass drum beat and cymbal tap. Sporadic breaths throughout the song add to its eccentricity. The repetition of “some boys are” builds and builds contributing to the consistency and overall message of the song.

“Doors Unlocked and Open” provides a classic rock guitar and drum combo feel until it piece by piece adds other instruments. And oh man, that bass line! Once the bass guitar is present, it mixes with the original guitar and ever present drum to create a nice balance. No instrument shines above another in this track, as they all contribute to the wholesome sound.

The album’s first single “You Are a Tourist” is next and packs an enormous punch. The song is definitely a great choice by the band for a single. It has everything that a single should have (ok, maybe my bias is showing, but I adore this song!), catchy lyrics, a guitar rhythm and drumbeat that make you want to dance, and the echoing of “this, fire, grows, high.” If you haven’t heard this song yet, seriously, go to YouTube now! (Plus, the video is really cool).

“Unobstructed Views” starts with a beautiful piano solo combined with tinkering of bells on top of a faded melody. As the piano grows louder, a sound that can only be described as soft hammering combined with a light, airy flute leading into vocals gives the piece a nature-movie soundtrack vibe. The sudden addition of backup vocals in harmony is pleasant surprise that is goose bump worthy. The rain drop tinkering is a satisfying ending.

“Monday Morning” tells the tale of a young girl in love with vintage… how indie. The simplicity of the instruments adds to the carefree feeling the lyrics provide. Nothing really sticks out too much about the track, just that it’s bittersweet and simple, which is enough of a combination to make it easy listening.

“Portable Television” is the first fast paced song on the album. The drums come off as unexpected at first, but then set the tempo for the rest of the song. The heavy percussion is a nice change from the other tracks on the album.

“Underneath the Sycamore” draws the image of lovers lying in the grass looking up at the sky. “We are the same / We are both safe / Underneath the sycamore,” on top of a kit rhythm adds to the consistency that whole album contains.

“St. Peter’s Cathedral” starts with a raw breakdown that features Gibbard’s voice above single, spaced out electric guitar strums. The addition of soft “bum, bum, bum” in the background followed by overlapping vocals contribute to the tranquility.

“Stay Young, Go Dancing” has an acoustic beginning that turns into a mix between a dance floor ballad and a movie-flashback scene. The violins underneath the lyrics “and when she sings, I hear a symphony” are absolutely lovely, as with the overall message of the song.

Overall, the album as a whole provides different aspects of sound that appeal to more than one type of listener. From percussion heavy rhythms, to piano melodies, to unexpected echoing harmonies, “Codes and Keys” mixes in a little of everything, while managing to stay true to the Death Cab sound.

Codes & Keys Tracklisting
1. Home Is A Fire
2. Codes And Keys
3. Some Boys
4. Doors Unlocked And Open
5. You Are A Tourist
6. Unobstructed Views
7. Monday Morning
8. Portable Television
9. Underneath The Sycamore
10. St Peter’s Cathedral
11. Stay Young, Go Dancing

Pre-order Death Cab For Cutie’s new album Codes & Keys now at

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