Plans

Studio Album by released in 2005

Plans review

Indie-pop quartet Death Cab for Cutie jumps to a major label

Bellingham, WA, indie-pop quartet Death Cab for Cutie began in 1997 as the solo project of singer/guitarist Ben Gibbard, who previously recorded under the name All-Time Quarterback. The underground success of the cassette You Can Play These Songs' Chords inspired Gibbard to recruit a full-time band including guitarist/organist Christopher Walla, bassist Nick Harmer, and drummer Nathan Good. Just prior to completion of the 2000’s We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, Good left the group and was replaced by drummer Michael Schorr. In 2003, Eureka Farm's Jason McGerr joined the group and the band's stunning album Transatlanticism appeared in October. After a lengthy courtship with Barsuk Records, the group inked a deal with Atlantic and released their label debut, Plans, in August of 2005. Death Cab for Cutie's jump to a major label doesn't affect its sound one note on Plans. Indeed, few acts are as comfortable in their own skin as Death Cab for Cutie, and on its new album the group happily sticks to its musical roots by reinforcing the qualities its fans hold dear.

New album delivers beyond expectations

The set begins with two of Death Cab for Cutie's best songs ever: the thumping Marching Bands of Manhattan and the strident single Soul Meets Body, which should stick at modern rock outlets. Marching Bands of Manhattan is a song about absence making the heart grow weaker, rises from a brooding melody with the image of a heartsick dreamer elevating Manhattan. Frontman Ben Gibbard's evocative, lovelorn storytelling remains at the forefront: the piano-led What Sarah Said expertly chronicles the "nervous paces" of visiting a dying loved one in the hospital, while the devastating Brothers on a Hotel Bed captures the creeping ennui of a long-term relationship. Rock music this substantive is increasingly rare, but Plans delivers beyond expectations. The acoustic I Will Follow You Into the Dark mixes lyrics about love and loss, a recurring theme of the album, some of which is pretty clearly autobiographical. Finally, Your Heart Is an Empty Room and Crooked Teeth equal anything the band has done. The former is a compact psychoanalysis of a destructively restless lover. The latter is a collapsing-relationship song that soars on a Beatles-tinted melody.

Plans is most mature and well written in Death Cab for Cutie’s catalogue

Plans is an album that moves subtly away from the Death Cab for Cutie of old, but is instantly recognizable, retains idiosyncrasy and is catchy enough to build on those first tentative footholds in the mainstream. It distinguishes itself from their back-catalogue by its dense textures; the sound is deeper, and bigger. In musical terms Plans is certainly an album of progression. There's no reason Death Cab for Cutie shouldn't keep trying to expand their signature sound. Whether Death Cab for Cutie are destined for stardom remains to be seen, but for the time being, Plans both continues their run of very good albums and will serve as an excellent introduction for many to a consistently interesting and very listenable band. Plans is a strong and generally hopeful album, not as sorrowful as some of his other Gibbard’s songs. And while The Photo Album was Death Cab for Cutie's most emotionally tearing album, this one was easily their most mature and well written.