Codes and Keys

Ben Gibbard remembers hearing John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy album as a child of 4 years old. Today, as a 35 year old recently married man, he finds inspiration in the album, referring to it as an example of how great things can come from finding balance in life. At the center of that release was Lennon and Ono’s love story. Although Codes and Keys isn’t an expose of his marriage to actress Zooey Deschanel, it surely reflects the impact the relationship has had on the songwriter/singer’s attitude. Newly sober and obviously happy, Gibbard’s songs are brighter and more optimistic while maintaining just enough angst to keep things interesting. He’s even moved the Los Angeles, a city he once assailed in the song “Why You’d Want To Live Here.”

Death Cab For Cutie’s previous release, 2008’s Narrow Stairs found the band pushing the parameters of their sound. Codes and Keys doesn’t go to the dark side as often but the sound is complex and multilayered. Death Cab For Cutie’s distinctive guitar sound sidesteps frequently allowing for new central instruments - keyboards and synthesizers. The title track features a percussive piano paired with synthesized strings. “Home Is a Fire” is a slow build track that rides on Pat Methany influenced brushed cymbals, Gibbard’s multi tracked vocals and Chris Walla’s keyboard work.

Gibbard’s ear for melody remains intact as on the catchy first single “You Are a Tourist” and his sense for self examination continues to fuel his lyrics. “Some Boy” could be a look back on past relationship experiences, acknowledging the impact maturity has on success in that area. “Doors Unlocked And Open” and “Unobstructed Views” again seem to examine life from a then and now perspective. “Monday Morning” seems to be a love song for Deschanel as Gibbard describes a young woman who seems out of step with modern culture, preferring old music to new. Deschanel’s own music is a throw-back to ‘60s and ‘70s pop.

It’s great that Gibbard was able to find stability in his life without it dragging his music into a rut of predictability. Like his inspiration, Double Fantasy, Gibbard

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)