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Album Review

For your consideration: a wildly successful indie rock band with a legion of followers on an equally successful, highly credible independent label makes the jump to major-label powerhouse Atlantic, leading to much chagrin and speculation among its fans as they awaited with bated breath for what would happen to the group. The result was For Your Own Special Sweetheart, inarguably the most polished and fully realized album of Dischord alumnus Jawbox's career. Fast forward ten years and you find Barsuk's Death Cab for Cutie in the same position, making the same move. A new label, a larger crowd (thanks to their repeated appearances on The OC), and a side project of Ben Gibbard (Postal Service) that very well overshadowed the success of his main project. All of the moves were perfectly aligned to take the little band that could into the rock stratosphere. But the difference between Jawbox and Death Cab for Cutie was that For Your Own Special Sweetheart went on to be the finest release of Jawbox's canon. Plans definitely comes close to that mark, but falls slightly short. In comparison to the dry, raw production of Transatlanticism, Plans is warm and polished, the kind of album expected from a band obsessed with the sound of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Chris Walla does an amazing job bringing the group's sound in a different direction than before without compromising too many of the things that made the group sound great to begin with. Thematically, Plans is the Death Cab for Cutie suitable for graduate students, world-weary and wiser from their experiences, realizing they can no longer be love-starved 20-somethings without a clue yet hopelessly cursed to face the same issues. And there's merit to be had in acknowledging that maturity, for even blink-182 figured out their age and released their "serious" album. Gibbard's wispy, poetic lyrics (which could easily have been stolen from Aimee Mann's dressing room while she wasn't looking) still remain an artery from which the rest of the band beats and are some of his finest ever, but this time around the band aligns itself more with a series of emotional murmurs rather than a heart attack. The album winds its way from one ballad to the next, with brief stopovers at moderately up-tempo numbers to help break things up a bit. And it's this sense of resignation that either makes or breaks the album, depending on which Death Cab for Cutie is your favorite: the melancholic, hopeless romantic or the one who wears its heart on its sleeve with unbridled energy and passion. If Transatlanticism was Gibbard's Pet Sounds and Postal Service was SMiLE, then this is definitely Wild Honey, loved by adoring new fans and those who enjoy the ballads. But those hoping for a bit more — for the bar to be raised higher — might find this a mildly predictable exercise in Gibbard exorcising the demons of Phil Collins that haunt him. Plans is both a destination and a transitional journey for the group, one that sees the fulfillment of years of toiling away to develop their ideas and sound. But it's with the completion of those ideas that band is faced with a new set of crossroads and challenges to tread upon: to stay the course and suffer stagnation or try something bold and daringly new with their future. Which road they'll take will make all the difference.

Customer Reviews



Death Cab for Cutie rocks!

I know who this band is because I used to listen to their song Soul Meets Body, which is my favorite song


I am a person who feels music deeply. It makes my mood up or down for days at a time. I can listen to songs over and over again to feel certain feelings again. This may certify me as crazy to certain people but I choose to think it makes me able to discern real feeling for all the fake crap we accept normally. All that said, this album makes me feel. I repeat certain songs over and over. To anyone who wants to feel deeply, this is the band for you.


Formed: 1997 in Bellingham, WA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Death Cab for Cutie's rise from small-time solo project to Grammy-nominated rock band is one of indie rock's greatest success stories. Launched in the bayside college town of Bellingham, Washington, the group was originally a side project for singer/guitarist Ben Gibbard, an engineering student at Western Washington University who split his time between school and music. Taking a break from his local power pop band, Pinwheel, Gibbard began recording an album's worth of solo material during the summer...
Full Bio
Plans, Death Cab for Cutie
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Customer Ratings