Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Open Door EP - Death Cab for Cutie (April Hangover Series)

The Open Door

Death Cab for Cutie
Atlantic Records.

SCQ Rating: 74%

Nearly a year since Narrow Stairs divided fans, sold well, took the band on a world-tour and to another stratosphere of fame, Ben Gibbard and Co. bookend their biggest chapter with The Open Door; a lean but powerful EP of tracks recorded during the Narrow Stairs sessions but inevitably excluded. As Coldplay insisted upon the release of their Prospekt March EP late last year, Death Cab for Cutie have repeatedly asserted that none of these songs are B-sides, that their exclusion was decided solely on their upbeat – and therefore polarizing – nature in relation to the LP’s mood. Far be it from me to contest their claims; aside from a quaint demo of ‘Talking Bird’, these four previously unheard tracks sound as well-produced and nurtured as much of Narrow Stairs’ final tracklist. And even if leftover EPs need such excuses to avoid recognizing the cash-grabs they commonly are, there is much to enjoy here.

‘Little Bribes’ earns its recent college radio attention as an atypical Death Cab composition; open chords strum over a jaunty tempo as Gibbard unleashes yet another lyrically impeccable pop song. The EP finds its footing by second track ‘A Diamond and A Tether’, which lumbers romantically (with a killer Wilco-esque guitar solo) between Gibbard’s two passions: love and being alone. That gray area between commitment and freedom is as prevalent here as it was on Narrow Stairs, colouring dulled anxiety into the blueprints of ‘My Mirror Speaks’ and ‘I Was Once a Loyal Lover’. The latter is especially anthemic for those unwilling to leave their ideals for the average adulthood, as Gibbard announces:

“All my friends are forward-thinking/
getting hitched and quitting drinking/
And I can feel them pulling away/
As I’m resigned to stay the same.”

It’s a call-to-arms that even casual fans still obsessing over Transatlanticism can relate to (hell, it was six years ago already!), and while The Open Door offers little validation for fans bothered by the direction of Narrow Stairs, Gibbard’s consistent nerd-god charms are capable of softening their fan forum-bound slurs. Still, reality check: since when was Narrow Stairs some kind of mood-piece album? How can ‘A Diamond and A Tether’ be excluded on the basis of mood and not ‘Your New Twin Sized Bed’? Wouldn’t ‘My Mirror Speaks’ be a fine replacement for ‘No Sunlight’? And what am I complaining about?

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