June 10, 2011

Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys

If you have listened to Death Cab for Cutie for the past few years, then I bet you are reading this sheepishly. I don’t blame you. It took me a while to summon the strength to push play on Codes and Keys, the four-piece’s sixth LP. One simple question left me perplexed: Who are Death Cab? A decade into their career, the band has released underground lo-fi (Something About Airplanes/We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes), crafty acoustic guitar melodies (The Photo Album/Transatlanticism), piano ballades (Plans), and most recently Narrow Stairs, a melting pot for pretty much everything they have previously tried.
Not knowing what to expect from the album, I took several lazy summer afternoons and listened. And while the album itself is neither spectacular nor terrible, I struggled to focus on individual songs. Looking at Codes and Keys as a whole was more revealing. The album is not depressing, per se, but there is something pensive and sad about it.
Codes and Keys feels distant, as if a gentle haze has descended between the band and the listener. We can still hear Gibbard and Walla writing the same types of songs that they always have, but they seem to be playing on the other side of the curtain. We can hear their old work on the record as St Peter’s Cathedral gives a nod to 03’s Transatlanticsim, Underneath the Sycamore to 05’s Plans, and Doors Unlocked and Open to 08’s Narrow Stairs. However, songs are a tad more relaxed and more introspective. Codes and Keys is not the kind of record that makes me want to jump up and down and buy tickets for the newest tour; rather, it gives me an urge to dig out my old Death Cab CDs and enjoy all the great music that the band has made over the years.
While the album itself may not be great, what it means to a fan of the band is. If you like the band, pick it up. If not, don’t bother.



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 Dance

June 7, 2011

Ty Segall - Goodbye Bread

What a fucking adorable album cover. I'd buy the album just for the cover, I'm not kidding. Anyway, Ty Segall is one of the more prominent garage rockers that peaked out of the ever-engrossing scene just last year with his third studio album 'Melted', which actually ended up on our Top Albums of 2010 list. That album was total lo-fi bliss, 'Finger' and 'Girlfriend' being clear-cut stand-outs for me.

Though he said he was trying a more pop-enthusiastic record, it's not completely obvious that he's shying away from the rough, raw garage rock approach. He's still retained the lo-fi aspect (don't mean to sound snobby or anything, but thank goodness), and the raw power of most of the songs still shines. I Am With You even borrows the melody from The Drag, a song off of his debut. But I suppose the poppiness is more apparent on tracks like 'I Can't Feel It', whose light-hearted dual guitar line totally lightens up the whole song, and the opening track Goodbye Bread. The songs here definitely feel more thought out too, whereas back on his first couple albums, it seemed as though he was just picking a few chords, going with it, and rocking the fuck out.

At a certain point though, the songs start to blend together, and the melodies get monotonous at times, especially on Comfortable Home, My Head Explodes, The Floor, and Fine. That's probably because all of the songs use the same four elements. An electric guitar line, sometimes two, drums, bass, and lazy vocals. I can see liking this album a little more if he had varied it up a bit, like on his previous album.

It's not as though his music is groundbreaking (not to say any of the music in the garage rock scene is), plus his melodies have never stood out for me that much, and his vocals leave a little to be desired, but there's something about his music that just draws me in and makes me feel good, and for the most part, that feeling remains on Goodbye Bread.

1. Goodbye Bread
2. California Commercial
3. Comfortable Home
4. You Make the Sun Fry
5. I Can't Feel It
6. My Head Explodes
7. The Floor
8. Where Your Mind Goes
9. I Am With You
10. Fine