“I don’t know where to begin”. Quite an opening line from the mouth of the relentlessly eloquent and imaginative Ben Gibbard. But this eighth studio album from the Washington indie stalwarts is understandably something of a new venture, as the first since last year’s departure of founding member Chris Walla.
But Kintsugi – the Japanese art of fixing pottery but purposefully highlighting its cracks as part of the items history – doesn’t feel for a moment like a debilitated Death Cab; in fact, at first it sounds like a pretty happy one. Seemingly gone are the days of Gibbard’s heart-wrenching, tear-jerking emo escapades into hospital wings and untenable long distance relationships, as the record is punctuated by indie-rock numbers. ‘Good Help (Is So Hard To Find)’ is a treat of hooky riffs, hi-hat heavy beats and catching melodies; ‘The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive’ stands-out as a punchy early highlight with a classically satisfying Death Cab chorus, while ‘Ingenue’ grows beautifully.
However, for those – this fan included – looking for some Transatlanticism-esque melancholy, never fear. ‘You’ve Haunted Me All My Life’ does exactly what it says on the tin: “You are the mistress I can’t make a wife” Gibbard rhymes above chunky picking and increasing, careful layers of gorgeous guitar lines. It’s followed-up by the album’s ballad ‘Hold No Guns’, an entirely acoustic, romantic outing. There’s something almost Coldplay-like about ‘Everything’s A Ceiling’ and piano-based closer ‘Binary Sea’, and before you know it we’re listening to a Death Cab classic; an emotional roller coaster proudly bearing its cracks for all to see.