Death Cab For Cutie, a band whose name will more than likely bring up feelings of a love had and lost. Many say that their best achievement is an album that does not even bear their name. However as proven by Kintsugi, they are a band that can still write a powerful and emotive album.
Kintsugi is a Japanese art of repairing broken objects with a gold-coloured glue. Instead of trying to hide the imperfections, Kintsugi teaches that damage should be shown as it has lots to teach us. This is a perfect metaphor for the album. The personal and professional tragedies of Ben Gibbard are widely written about: his divorce from actress Zooey Deschanel and the departure of long-time bandmate and producer Chis Walla. These tragedies form the basis of the album and the overlying theme that is present throughout.
In previous albums by Death Cab For Cutie, the Gibbard’s vocals always seemed to be above the mix. A point to draw you in and create the landscape of sound people have come to love. With this album, the vocals are more underneath, rather than a part of the mix. This change in sound could have been engineered by the new style of production.
Or as I suspect, is more the sound of a songwriter who is damaged and lost his way. For such a personal songwriter as Ben Gibbard has been, vocals such as “But if you let me be your skyline / I’ll let you be the wave / That reduces me to rubble that looked safe from far away” ( from ‘The Ghosts of Beverly Drive’) offer imagery that further drives home this point.
That is not to say that this album is not without its high points. After a slow and mellow beginning from the song ‘No Room in Frame’, a three-song run brings the tempo back up and would easily fit on any other Death Cab For Cutie album. The lead single ‘Black Sun’, the previously mentioned ‘The Ghosts of Beverly Drive’ and ‘Little Wanderer’ may be more up-tempo and closer to a traditional sound we expect; but that is not to say that the dark imagery does not continue.
“How could something so fair / Be so cruel / When this black sun revolved / Around you!” Here you can just image anyone screaming this at a past lover, trying to get answers for what happened.
Continuing the theme of songs in groups of three, the album then moves into a slow, somber mood with the songs ‘You’ve Haunted me all my Life’, ‘Hold no Guns’ and ‘Everything’s a Ceiling’.
The stand out song here clearly is ‘You’ve Haunted me all my Life’, where we can hear Gibbard keep repeating “You’ve haunted me all my life / You are the mistress I can’t make a wife”. With the ending of “I can’t make a wife” there is the possibility of inferring into the feelings of his marriage; this song also has more repetition in the lyrics then we are used to seeing. However it does work quite nicely and truly gets his point across.
The rest of the album honestly could have been left off and would not have hurt the final product. The track ‘Good Help (is so Hard to Find)’ is a very oddly placed track that almost has a disco type feel to it. Following that we have the mediocre tracks ‘El Dorado’, ‘Ingenue’, and ‘Binary Sea’. Of all of these ‘Ingenue’ is the only track that I would have left on the album and would have been a great way to wrap the album up.
“So take all you can / From the mouth of man / And escape from this town / Before your sand runs out”