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Death Cab for Cutie
Atlantic Records

our score: 5 out of 5

Death Cab for Cutie - Plans
by: Laura Ray

After years of only a cult following of emo/indie devoted listeners, the band Death Cab for Cutie finally emerged from the shadows when signed to their first major Record Company, Atlantic Records. A mention of the group on America’s hit teen soap, the O.C. launched them into the public’s eye, and both new and old fans anxiously awaited the arrival of their newest CD. Plans was released in August of 2005 (VH1.com, 2005), and despite the argument by certain critics that the album has suffered due to the band’s recent sign to a major label, Death Cab still held true to its roots. Through a mix of lead singer Ben Gibbard’s gorgeous vocals and heart wrenching lyrics, along with guitarist Chris Walla’s incredibly diverse skills, Plans is an emotionally moving album to be treasured, just as the band’s previous works have been.

Plans contains a reoccurring theme throughout the album of mortality and how to cope with loss. Whether it be the evidently death-related ballad “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”, or the more subtle “Someday You Will Be Loved”, which seems to deal with both the idea of love in this life and the hereafter, the album’s lyrics and vocals combined with hauntingly beautiful melodies both touch your heart and ! break it . The track “Brothers on a Hotel Bed” looks at relationships and how they can slowly deteriorate over time, just as people do. Gibbard’s gentle voice glides across the song, observing an older man who’s “…wrinkles masterfully disguise the youthful boy below/ who turned [her] way and saw/ something he was not looking for/ both a beginning and an end” (Gibbard, 2005). In the painfully tragic “What Sarah Said”, a man waits in a hospital for the woman he loves, who is evidently near death. Gibbard’s lyrics take you into the mind of someone who has just experienced a tragedy, where he brilliantly observes that “Amongst the vending machines and year old magazines/In a place where we only say goodbye/ It stung like a violent wind/ That our memories depend/ On a faulty camera in our minds…”, as well as the simple fact that “…There is no comfort in the waiting room” (Gibbard, 2005).

“I Will Follow You Into the Dark” has been referred to as the album’s peak. With its beautifully simplistic melody combined with powerful lyrics on love, death, religion, and the afterlife, this ballad is no ordinary love song. The track transcends the boundaries of reality and this life, and makes promises that the singer will follow his love after she dies “…into the dark”, no matter where that might be. Gibbard also contemplates the confusing nature of religion within the song by stating that in “…Catholic School/ Vicious as Roman rule/[he] got his knuckles bruised/ by a lady in black./ [He] held his tongue/ As she told [him] ‘Son, fear is the heart of love’/ So [he] never went back…”(Gibbard, 2005).

While most of the songs on Plans are slow and heart aching, there are a few with a more upbeat tune and positive idea of passing on. In the most digitally smooth and popish sounding track, “Soul Meets Body”, Gibbard states that “I want to live where soul meets body/ And let the sun wrap its arms around me/ And bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing/ And feel, feel what it's like to be new” (Gibbard, 2005). This idea of! the pas sing onto the next life is much more hopeful and optimistic than most of the album’s tracks. Giving the afterlife a peaceful feeling, where one can “cleanse” himself/herself and become something not only new, but better, “Soul Meets Body” not only glows through it’s lyrics, but also through the energetic drum beat and vibrant guitar melodies. In addition, “Crooked Teeth” is another upbeat number that can be found in Plans. The combination of Chris Walla’s excellent rhythm through the changing beats of the song and Ben Gibbard’s catchy lyrics makes the track one that you will find yourself singing long after you have finished the album.

There is often fear that when an indie band signs to a major record label, the music will suffer greatly and lose the unique quality it once possessed. Fortunately for Death Cab for Cutie, the switch to Atlantic Records managed to open the band up to new audiences who had not heard of them previously without losing the distinctive qualities that brought in the band’s original fan base. Plans is an memorably beautiful album, which shows how the group has matured over the years, while still keeping the unique charm that has always made Death Cab for Cutie such an impressive band.