Open Door (EP)

Death Cab For Cutie

Atlantic, 2009

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


Death Cab For Cutie’s Open Door EP comes hot on the heels of the group’s first #1 album, 2008’s crisp yet somewhat patchy Narrow Stairs. Culled from songs left off of that disc, this batch of five tracks actually ends up sounding tighter and more energetic than most of Stairs, which seemed to counter its every moment of transcendent loveliness with a pat cliché. Even having injected a new sense of movement, Death Cab also still maintains what they’ve always done best – indelible choruses, bouncing riffs courtesy of Chris Walla, and Ben Gibbard’s uniquely resonant vocals – making this yet another indie staple. 

Open Door launches out with the “Little Bribes,” a smooth, fast-paced cut reminiscent of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Transatlanticism’s “The Sound Of Settling” or “Crooked Teeth” off of Plans. With jangling drums and an acoustic guitar riff that Walla somehow manages to make sound accusatory, this smoky dig at the plastic heart of Las Vegas is bitter yet lovelorn all at once (“You said this city has a beating heart / That pushes people down the boulevard / And they’re all hoping for a wish fulfilled / In a desert for a dollar bill”). Meanwhile, “My Mirror Speaks” retains this coupling of driving rhythms and downbeat lyrics, seeming to pilfer the riff from “Amputations” and mixing in deceptively jaunty handclaps and crunching guitars while Gibbard’s voice rises to a pure, haunting falsetto as he reaches each chorus.

Truly, Gibbard does not-quite-right love songs like no one else, blending mellow beats and tenderly bruised lyrics to great effect, almost always sidestepping the cheesiness all-too characteristic of ballads. “A Diamond And A Tether” is another one of those standouts, featuring Gibbard crooning over a chorus of harmonies and overlapping waves of guitars, while the title’s metaphor is subtle and stirring. “I Was Once A Loyal Lover” is a little more standard Death Cab fare, rollicking along on a heady, drum and piano-spiked beat that belies the resigned reflection of the lyrics.

Closer “Talking Bird” is the sole holdover from Narrow Stairs, but while the album version was clunky and syrupy-slow, this demo version strips the unnecessary synths and other accoutrements, leaving only slight acoustic flourishes that help the fairly clichéd lyrics go down a little easier, sounding more tender and reflective this time around.

The Open Door EP fnds Death Cab For Cutie refining their signatures, building upwards on the new heights that the triple-hit of Transatlanticism, Plans, and Narrow Stairs found them reaching. Their seamless mix of sorrow with hope, bright melodies and beats with raw, spare lyrics is just as resonant as ever, creating an accessible gateway into all things indie.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic, and is used for informational purposes only.