Death Cab For Cutie aren’t strangers to melancholy. Their entire discography plays with sorrow, unsatisfied yearning and all the things you never want to feel. But on their ninth studio album ‘Thank You For Today’, there seems to have been a shift in the norm. The first since Chris Walla’s departure, the melodramatics are still prevalent, but there’s something else going on as well.
The album opens with crooning wistfulness that sets it up with a hazy tone of sadness. ‘I Dreamt We Spoke Again’ and ‘Summer Years’ both share glassy vocals and soft guitars that make the most of the time given to them. With lyrics such as “we’re walking lines in parallel that will never meet and it’s just as well”, this album isn’t one for the happy-hearted.
A song that was made around a sample of Yoko Ono’s ‘Mind Train’ should be a hit. However, ‘Gold Rush’ doesn’t have the buzz that it needs. The story of longing for a place to stay the same whilst the ever-changing skyline triggers memories works. As does the instrumental side of things. But it’s the lyrics that let it down. A continuous repetition of “gold rush” starting each line becomes tedious; limited to just the chorus, it would have kept its value. You soon forget all about Yoko and start wondering whether ‘gold’ and ‘rush’ are real words anymore.
‘Your Hurricane’ and ‘When We Drive’ are flat, uneventful and predicable at best. Reaching ‘Autumn Love’ almost feels like an achievement, if achievements were congratulated with a disappointing cake. There’s a hint of +44, which kind of makes you wish you were listening to their album instead.
‘Northern Lights’ is the album’s strongest point. CHVRCHES front-woman Laura Mayberry lends her vocals to the track, which, paired with the spectacularly layered production, creates a diverse and energetic song. It comes as a very pleasant surprise.
Closing track ‘60 & Punk’ is where things start to get cryptic. When asked about this track, frontman Ben Gibbard refused to say who it is about. Being let down by a hero is a key theme, and the lyrics share an almost-biographical encounter. It could be that this song is about Gibbard himself. The entire album spills lyrics about change and looking back, which could mean that ‘Thank You For Today’ is Gibbard’s dealing with time and how it has altered himself, his band and his perceptions. ’60 & Punk’ could be the ending that ties it all together.
Being completely honest, this album isn’t great. There are a lot of faults, which could be due to the band finding their feet after their jack-of-all-trades left. We also can’t gloss over the fact that the band is getting older, too. There are some high points, but, unfortunately, they are quickly taken over by the many mediocre tracks the album has to offer. Death Cab For Cutie are an awesome band, so let’s just hope that this is just a blip and they’ll be back with their usual top-notch stuff soon.