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Narrow Stairs (2008)

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Learn more about Narrow Stairs:

Format: CD
Sku: 207941267
UPC: 075678994654
UPC 14: 00075678994654
Release Date: 5/13/2008
See more in Pop

Song Listing

Disc 1
Song Title
1. One of Those Nights ~ The Cab
2. Bounce ~ The Cab
3. I'll Run ~ The Cab
4. High Hopes In Velvet Ropes ~ The Cab
5. That '70s Song ~ The Cab
6. Take My Hand ~ The Cab
7. Risky Business ~ The Cab
8. I'm a Wonder ~ The Cab
9. Zzzzz ~ The Cab
10. Vegas Skies ~ The Cab
11. Can You Keep a Secret? ~ The Cab
12. This City is Contagious ~ The Cab
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.

"...a full-on assault of crunching guitar riffs, distorted, cracked vocals and walls of disorienting feedback...  Billboard
"...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
Muze PNote Audio Mixers: Chris Walla; Alex Newport.
Muze PNote Recording information: Robert Lang, Seattle, WA; The Alberta Court, Portland, OR; Tiny Telephone, San Francisco, CA; Two Sticks Audio, Seattle, WA.
Muze PNote Photographer: Eric A. Hegg.
Muze PNote 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

Compilation Appearances

Muze Music Compilations Six Feet Under, Volume 2-Everything Ends
Muze Music Compilations Stubbs The Zombie:soundtrack
Muze Music Compilations Endless Highway: The Music Of The Band
Muze Music Compilations Late Great Daniel Johnston:discovered
Muze Music Compilations Atlantic Records: Time Capsule (Limited Edition)
Muze Music Compilations Twilight: New Moon

Technical Info

Music Release Date Release Date : 05/13/2008
Music Original Release Date Original Release Date : 2008
Music CatalogId Catalog ID : ATL-452796-2
Music Label Name Label : Atlantic (Label)
Music Number of Discs Number of Discs : 1
Music Studio or Live Studio/Live : Studio
Music Mono or Stereo Mono/Stereo : Stereo
Music SPAR code SPAR Code : n/a
Music UPC UPC : 00075678994654

Professional Reviews

Rolling Stone (p.66)
- 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."

Spin (p.48)
- Ranked #25 in Spin's "40 Best Albums Of 2008" -- "Every album gets slightly more refined, with Ben Gibbard and Co. stretching their sound..."

Entertainment Weekly (p.121)
- "Death Cab's ebullience makes this a redemptive work about sadness. And there's nothing NARROW-minded about that." -- Grade: B

Alternative Press (p.125)
- 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..."

Kerrang (Magazine)
- "Spacious, ambitious and bolder than ever, DCFC have struck gold once more. Magic."

Q (Magazine)
- 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'..."

The Onion A.V. Club 10 of 10
Death Cab For Cutie multi-instrumentalist and producer Chris Walla sounded the alarm just after New Year's: In one interview, he described Narrow Stairs as a "total curve ball" and a "really polarizing record" that's "got some teeth." To drive the message home, the band designated the eight-minute "I Will Possess Your Heart" as the album's first single, albeit in truncated radio-ready form...But change is always relative. For a generally fey band like Death Cab, a darker, more abrasive approach has produced simply its most rock 'n' roll album to date. "Bixby Canyon Bridge" opens the album in typical Death Cab fashion, with a ghostly guitar and Ben Gibbard's voice. Bass and a second guitar come in intermittently, and a hi-hat ticks quietly...Those moments are more common on Narrow Stairs than on its predecessors: "No Sunlight," "Long Division," and the end of "Pity And Fear" all have that rock-band urgency. They're nicely complemented by the sunny '60s pop of "You Can Do Better Than Me," the chilly slowness of "The Ice Is Getting Thinner," and "Cath...," which sounds like an unreleased track from 2000's We Have The Facts And We're Voting Yes. Narrow Stairs finds Death Cab comfortable with all aspects of its musical personality--and on top of them all. - Kyle Ryan


Death 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."

Product Attributes

Product attributeArtist:   Death Cab For Cutie
Product attributeLabel:   Atlantic/q Records
Product attributeMusic Format:   Compact Disc
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