Ever since 1997, Death Cab for Cutie has been rocking America, releasing an album about every
two years. As almost every other rock band from the 90s has broken up, they have weathered
the tests of time together. Their 2003 album, Transatlanticism gained them popularity amongst
the alternative rock scene. Now after their longest hiatus yet, they are back with their tenth
album, Asphalt Meadows.
The album whispers in with “I Don’t Know How I Survive,” tricking listeners with its soft guitar
before kicking in with the loudest drums that Death Cab for Cutie has dared to do. This is also
the start of a new sound for them with the synth contributing to the ambience. “Roman
Candles” is next, and it makes it clear that they are not forgetting their emo 2000s roots
“Asphalt Meadows” is the titular song on the album and shines as lead Ben Gibbard tells a story
with a melody. The sounds on the next track “Rand McNally” get a bit confused with the song
having less to say, but “Here to Forever” quickly makes up for the weak point as it takes the
listener into an 80s movie scene that is able to be both fun and existentialist.
Right in the middle of the album, “Foxglove Through The Clearcut” introduces a sharp break. It
is a five-minute song of Hubbard talking and has been both praised and declared the worst
thing Death Cab for Cutie has ever done by critics. While not an awful song, it is not designed
for a simple playlist.
“Pepper” makes references to The Beatles and convinces the listener to forget that the band
members are not pining teenagers anymore. Then “I Miss Strangers,” a song pulled from
pandemic struggles, brings sounds reminiscent of Metallica as they show off their punk core.
The weakest song on the album, “Wheat Like Waves,” references the band traveling on tours
with little depth to its lyrics. “Fragments From the Decade” and “I’ll Never Give Up On You,”
however, finish the album strong with background noises of echoing memories and dreamy
instrumentals showing shadows of their peak Transatlanticism melancholic vibe.
Along their lengthy journey as a band, Death Cab for Cutie has had shifts in sound with varying
success, but Asphalt Meadows brings the nostalgia for those who loved them at the height of
their career. While not their best, it is a tour de force album, proving that they have not just
stuck around while other bands dissolved, but that they have thrived and are here to stay.
Photo credits from: https://themusicpicker.wordpress.com/2022/09/23/encuentros-death-cab-for-cutie-asphalt-meadows-con-here-to-forever-2022/