|Death Cab for CutieAfter 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."