Death Cab For Cutie - The Open Door EP
Label: Barsuk/Atlantic Records
Release Date: March 31, 2009
I’ve always been a proponent of EPs. Full-length records are often too long,
drowning out the material on the album, that if standing alone, would be magnificent. And although Death Cab For Cutie may be an exception to this trend, their latest in The Open Door EP is a refreshing and upbeat blend of tracks that shows the sunnier side of the band.
“Little Bribes” opens with fun strumming guitar, immediately upbeat and freewheeling at the same time. The song mixes bits of country and Springsteen-esque rock and roll flavor, enough to make even the most emotional of Death Cab For Cutie fans’ heads bop. Indeed, the song seems to have ditched the band’s signature melancholy in exchange for a bit of feel-good playfulness, a welcomed change with summer knocking on our door.
“A Diamond and a Tether” again is commanded by acoustic guitar. Toned down in dynamics and tempo, the easy essence of the track, punctuated by the circular-feeling chord progression and reverbed lead guitar, is a reminder of classic Death Cab For Cutie. With a third verse stripped to just drums, quiet lead guitar and vocals, the song follows a natural progression of heavy and light, a songwriting style that lifts and drops in pleasurable fashion.
Following along the upbeat pattern of “Little Bribes,” “My Mirror Speaks” moves forward with marching drums and melodious vocals that only Gibbard can give justice to. Indeed, his voice has personality, and is able to slink its way through melodies with ease and character.
However, in addition to vocal prowess, the songwriting on the EP is Grade-A. From abrupt vocal breaks offering segues into groovy bridges (“My Mirror Speaks,”) to the keen use of bassy piano to take the place of muddy guitar on “I Was Once A Lover,” Death Cab For Cutie’s songwriting ability shines bright. Undoubtedly, a bit of playfulness has entered the hands of Walla and McGerr respectively, as evidenced in the linear pounding of instruments on “I Was Once A Lover.” However, the playfulness is done in an aesthetically pleasing manner, creating a record that beams with tasteful underpinnings of indie and rock and roll.
Tacked to the end of the record, the demo of “Talking Bird” is an organic take on the Narrow Stairs version, operating under acoustic and vocals. However, the listener isn’t slighted, being that the rendition is honest, as Gibbard retains the role of storyteller in simple fashion.
Indeed, simplicity is sometimes the best. However, there’s nothing simple about The Open Door EP. It’s evident that these songs didn’t make it to Narrow Stairs because they were sub-par. The truth is that collectively, they mesh with a blithe coherence, as if they were written for this record and this record only, as an open door to a new feeling.
I really enjoyed the Open Door EP. The songs didn't fit on Narrow Stairs but I could see why they wanted to release them anyway. I also thought the demo version of Talking Bird was refreshing and I think i might like it more than the Narrow Stairs version.