Death Cab for Cutie

Plans

When a band like Death Cab for Cutie manages to approach gold record sales with help only from the tiny Seattle-based label Barsuk and, via Fox' s The O.C., becomes an oft-mentioned name in a television world where the most charming protagonist is a classic nerd who still manages to get all the girls, you have to wonder when geek chic became so mainstream. Nevertheless, as the quartet's new major-label home is banking on, wearers of Old Navy, the Gap, and Banana Republic can finally agree that DCFC singer Ben Gibbard now personifies the archetype of what girls want and what boys wish they were: the sensitive indie rocker. As expected, Plans, the group's fifth record, is Death Cab's most polished work to date, but one suspects that has to do less with a bump in label budget and more with guitarist/producer Chris Walla simply getting better at his craft, a fact that makes you question why the foursome would want to cross to the other side of the Atlantic in the first place. Regardless, here songwriter Gibbard and his cohorts siphon all the finest moments from DCFC's previous four full-lengths, assembling them into a record devoid of filler and stuffed with gooey, nostalgic lyrics, lilting piano, and stadium-worthy rhythms. On songs like "Different Names for the Same Thing" and "Marching Bands of Manhattan," the band patiently lets the arrangements build to intensity levels worthy of Joshua Tree emotion. Elsewhere, on "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," Gibbard assumes the role of dorm-room troubadour, pining sweetly above nothing more than an acoustic guitar. By the time Plans ends, you're left with the idea that perhaps Death Cab's move to the majors finally means the masses are ready for what indie rock fans have been enjoying all along. We needn't worry, though, worse apples have certainly sought world domination.

 
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