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Death Cab for Cutie have spent the last two decades as one of the premiere American pop/rock bands. Fueled by the poetically earnest lyrics and characteristically endearing singing of frontman Ben Gibbard, their earliest collections built a solid foundation for what would become dual peak performances—and two of the best LPs of the decade—with 2003’s Transatlanticism and 2005’s Plans. Since then—and despite upholding their indie charm after years on Atlantic Records—they’ve released three very good, but not equally great or consistent, albums.
On their ninth outing, Thank You for Today, they continue that trend. While a bit subtler and dreamier than 2015’s Kintsugi, the record generally feels very much like an extension of that sound and spirit, making it another safe but enjoyable work that maintains their idiosyncratic recipe. In other words, the full-length doesn’t offer anything markedly fresh or startling, yet it once again reveals why Death Cab for Cutie are kings of the style.
Thank You for Today marks the quintet’s first studio effort without guitarist Chris Walla (who left in 2014 and was replaced by guitarists/keyboardists Dave Depper and Zac Rae). Aptly described (in the press release) as both “beautiful and dynamic” and “darkly anthemic and bittersweet”, the ten-track set captures Gibbard at his most “inward” and “personal”. Specifically, he “weaves a thread throughout [it] about how interconnected geography is with memory, and how hard it can be to hold onto places, and to people, too”.