Narrow Stairs (2008)
|Artist: Death Cab For Cutie|
|When asked to describe Death Cab for Cutie's sixth studio album, Narrow Stairs, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Chris Walla characterizes it as "having teeth," and we can't think of a more apt summarization of the disc. While many bands in Death Cab for Cutie's situation would try to recreate the success of hit songs like "Soul Meets Body" or "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," instead the band have crafted the most ambitious and varied album of their career by simply doing what they've been doing since they formed in Bellingham, Washington a decade ago -- made a brilliant record that refuses to pander, while stretching the artistic boundaries of what a Death Cab for Cutie record should sound like.|
"...matches "Transatlanticism" as Death Cab's best. Blender
"This time out the musical gambles are bolder and the outcome proportionally more dramatic. Boston Globe
"Gibbard's indie-rock blues still plumb emotional depths with remarkable literary detail. Rolling Stone
"...the sound of a band falling in love with the concept of sound...[Gibbard's] voice has never sounded more different and varied. Tiny Mix Tapes
Album Notes and Credits
Notes & Personnel Info
|Audio Mixers: Chris Walla; Alex Newport.|
|Recording information: Robert Lang, Seattle, WA; The Alberta Court, Portland, OR; Tiny Telephone, San Francisco, CA; Two Sticks Audio, Seattle, WA.|
|Photographer: Eric A. Hegg.|
|Throughout their career, and especially since they were forever enshrined as the favorite band of sardonic emo kid Seth Cohen on television's THE OC, Death Cab For Cutie have always been known as indie rock's most famous sensitive guys. Even at their most abrasive on previous albums like PLANS and WE HAVE THE FACTS AND WE'RE VOTING YES, Ben Gibbard and crew have always had an inherent gentleness along with the low-key pop sensibility that allowed them to make the jump from the indie fringe to major-label stardom. The ambitious, experimental NARROW STAIRS is Death Cab For Cutie's unexpectedly edgy response to any preconceptions, a wide-ranging, noisy and exciting album that sounds little like anything they've done before. From the epic-length first single. "I Will Possess Your Heart." through the spacy, almost psychedelic "Pity and Fear" and the noise-riddled "Your New Twin Sized Bed," NARROW STAIRS is Death Cab For Cutie's equivalent to Radiohead's KID A, a bracingly ambitious attempt to counter expectations as their stardom ascends.|
Producer: Chris Walla
Engineer: Chris Walla; Will Markwell; Will Markwell
|Release Date : 05/13/2008|
|Original Release Date : 2008|
|Catalog ID : ATL-452796-2|
|Label : Atlantic (Label)|
|Number of Discs : 1|
|Studio/Live : Studio|
|Mono/Stereo : Stereo|
|SPAR Code : n/a|
|UPC : 00075678994654|
- 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he album is as dark as anything the band has done....[T]he most indelible moment is 'Grapevine Fires,' a minor-key processional framed by churchy organ and electric piano."
- Ranked #25 in Spin's "40 Best Albums Of 2008" -- "Every album gets slightly more refined, with Ben Gibbard and Co. stretching their sound..."
- "Death Cab's ebullience makes this a redemptive work about sadness. And there's nothing NARROW-minded about that." -- Grade: B
- 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]hey still contribute stand-alone pop gems....Their sound is timeless. 'Your New Twin Sized Bed' is especially a stand-out, with a midtempo, acoustic-driven melody..."
- "Spacious, ambitious and bolder than ever, DCFC have struck gold once more. Magic."
- 3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]hey've shaken things up, most headspinningly with the eight-minute slab of instrumental loveliness 'I Will Possess Your Heart'..."
BioDeath Cab for Cutie
After spending much of 2006 in the midst of a turbulent tour cycle surrounding their RIAA platinum, Grammy-nominated album Plans, the band took a well-deserved break during the first part of 2007. Frontman Ben Gibbard embarked on his first-ever solo tour; guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Chris Walla released a solo album and produced records for acts like Tegan & Sara; drummer Jason McGerr constructed his own recording studio, Two Sticks; and bassist Nick Harmer, as always seems to be the case, worked on various projects. If Plans was a collection of firsts -- Death Cab's first album for a major label; the first disc to feature songwriting contributions from someone other than Gibbard; the first Death Cab disc recorded with the same drummer as the one before -- Narrow Stairs feels more like home.
The decision to record the new album at McGerr's Two Sticks, Walla's studio Alberta Court, and long-time friend John Vanderslice's studio Tiny Telephone allowed the band to abandon self-conscious tendencies in order to craft the most creative album of their career. "I wanted more than anything to create a professional studio that was also somewhere that was comfortable to hang out in," says McGerr about the conception and construction of Two Sticks (which was designed largely with the Narrow Stairs sessions in mind). "To do that, I had to take into account what we all love and hate about the studios we've been to, and make it comfortable enough to spend five or six weeks there at a time without feeling homesick." That environment, combined with the heightened amount of collaboration on the new songs, makes Narrow Stairs the climactic culmination of Death Cab's first ten years.
While much of this is due to the musical and emotional relationship the current quartet have developed over the last few years of playing, singing, and touring together, it can also be attributed to the environment Narrow Stairs was tracked in. According to Harmer, the album was recorded "with all of us sitting in a room looking at each other," making the sessions seem more like a typical band practice than a high-budget recording. And listening back to these eleven songs, there's a level of intimacy that couldn't have been attained any other way. "There was a lot of talk about what we wanted to accomplish as a rhythm section," Harmer continues, adding that he took acoustic bass lessons in order to stretch out on the record. "I just wanted to think of my instrument in a different way."