Album Review: Death Cab for Cutie, ‘Kintsugi’

Written by Chris Panico


“For if there is no document
We cannot build our monument
So look into the lens and
I’ll make sure this moment never dies”

The past has always been a fascination for Ben Gibbard, songwriter of the beloved indie giants Death Cab For Cutie. At times he rails to forget it, while at others he labors for its preservation. Over the last two decades the band has surely forged their own monument, cultivating a following larger and more dedicated than most (if not all) of their peers, It’s easy to look back on what they’ve done and admire the past. It’s good to remember, however, that there’s always something new about to happen; a fact that Gibbard ties off the last track of Kintsugi with.

“So lean in close or lend an ear/There’s something brilliant bound to happen here.”

Death Cab’s newest record is a momentous occasion in the career. Firstly, the band is coming off of a couple of not-so-great albums. Despite Codes and Keys and The Narrow Stairs reaching higher chartings than any of their predecessors, it would be tough to find a fan that would regard them with the same praise as Transatlantacism. Secondly, Kintsugi saw Chris Walla, whose production has always been a key element to the Death Cab sound, depart mid-recording (although he did contribute to the record till it was finished).

Photo Credit: Atlantic Records
Photo Credit: Atlantic Records

Luckily for us, Death Cab prevails.

While Kintsugi may not pull at raw heartstrings the whole way through the way Transatlantacism does, it does reflect a more mature, patient lens of perception. Of the currently released singles “Little Wanderer” is definitely the strongest, sounding as if Gibbard sat down with Fleetwood Mac to cut the song. It’s the kind of song that gives you the most subtle chills. It isn’t dramatic, or over the top, but it’s jarring in its own way.

“The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” is one of the best moments on the record, where the group really flexes their pop-song muscles. The lyrics are simple, more or less avoiding the poetic tendencies of songs like “Binary Sea”. Melodically, the tune is killer, fully loaded with the perfect pop chorus.

I was worried when I sat down to review Kintsugi. Death Cab For Cutie has grown to be the top of my list in the last year or so and I truly didn’t want to be let down. I’ve done quite a few album reviews by now, and frankly, a lot of records that come out are pretty disappointing. I’m always honest when I write about something and I didn’t want to have to give out bad scores on this. Turns out I didn’t have to. Ben Gibbard was right with this record. Something brilliant really did happen.

Rating: 9/10

Kintsugi is available on iTunes and Amazon.


Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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