Death Cab For Cutie are one of those bands that have been around for ages but are still relatively young considering the number of albums they have. Thank You For Today is the unit’s ninth album release and the first not to feature keyboardist/guitarist Chris Walla since the band’s inception over 20 years ago. It’s been 3 years since DCFC’s last album Kintsugi was released and new blood from Dave Depper and Zac Rae boost the band to a five piece for the first time.
DCFC have always been blessed with the ability to carve out foot-tappingly addictive songs but this record feels more serious and less poppy than before. One of the immediate characteristics of Thank You For Today is that there’s a distinctly less radio-orientated song writing approach that’s been taken for this record, making some of the tracks not as instantly accessible in comparison to previous efforts. Opening track “I Dreamt We Spoke Again” is a perfect example of this with its slightly off-kilter keyboards and ethereal production, still catchy but not the classic DCFC that we know. This feeling of a new atmosphere to their previous albums is evident on the scatty Radiohead-esque rhythm of “Summer Years” too. Ben Gibbard’s distinctive and youthful voice floats over subtle layers of keys as the beat skips ahead but, to my disappointment, not towards a memorable or appealing chorus line.
This isn’t to say that this is an album of melancholy dourness; the first single “Gold Rush” is sure to be a live classic with its pulsing rhythm, hypnotic song title chanting and decidedly more upbeat character. “Autumn Love” harks back to the band’s early material of acoustic guitars, with lots of little melodic hooks that make you feel like a twenty year old again and “Near/Far” is an uptempo, more mature song that is very in keeping with their previous album Kintsugi. It’s just that some of the album’s concept seems less concerned with wrapping things up in the listener-friendly catchiness of their previous efforts and more with getting to the heart of the subject matter regardless of whether it makes for good song-writing.
Thank You For Today is a curious album, at only a sprightly ten tracks long it’s a relatively quick listen (though it’s always better to leave people wanting more I think). The majority of the songs have production that feels like you’re in a lucid, almost dreamlike state rather than having the immediacy of a usual pop-rock band. This change in presentation from previous albums means that there’s ever so slightly a sense of disconnect with certain songs such as album closer “60 & Punk” and “You Moved Away”.
Overall, after listening for half a dozen spins over a few days I have to say that Thank You For Today did grow on me substantially from my initial reaction of liking only a few tracks. Being a big fan of the band, I would imagine that first impression was slightly down to my own high expectations as well as the different approach they’ve taken. However, bar a couple of tracks that– were it not for Ben Gibbard’s voice–I might’ve assumed were from a different band, Thank You For Today, will have enough for fans old and new to get their ears tingling. New ideas should be applauded but I can’t help but feel a couple of different song choices would have made this album the best they’ve made for a while. As it is, it’s a worthy addition to their catalogue, just with some forgettable elements.
Author: Steve, Bristol store