Something Like Sound

Tag: Death Cab For Cutie

Chuck Ragan does Daytrotter

by on Aug.26, 2009, under Blogs

I have often expressed my appreciation for music-session-blog Daytrotter. They’ve done what I could only imagine doing: recording the best up-and-coming artists from a wide swath of the modern independent music using old-fashioned full-band recording techniques.

Yesterday’s session features 6 songs (available for free download, just click on the photo above) from former Hot Water Music singer Chuck Ragan. Earlier this summer we had the chance to see Chuck open for Lucero at the Bluebird, and as I remember Chuck gave one of the most intense folk performances I’ve ever seen.

I thought I’d also take the time to share some of my other favorite Daytrotter sessions here too. Click on the images to go the respective sessions.

Manchester Orchestra

Andy Hull

Andrew Bird


Bon Iver


Death Cab For Cutie

Dinosaur Jr.

John Ralston

Kevin Devine

Langhorne Slim

Michael Zapruder

Minus The Bear


The Mountain Goats

The New Frontiers

The National

Pepi Ginsberg

Ra Ra Riot

The Silent Years

The Snake The Cross The Crown

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

These United States

Vampire Weekend

Young Coyotes

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Concert Review: Death Cab For Cutie at Red Rocks

by on Jul.15, 2009, under Concert Reviews

To begin, I must say I’m sorry, I really can’t review this show. 2 main reasons:

1. They didn’t let me take my camera inside (it was dumb)

2. Words cannot describe what went down there, it was amazing.

Good night, expect to see some stuff coming soon for our coverage of the Mile High Music Festival

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Death Cab For Cutie (or how I am now $50 poorer)

by on Mar.25, 2009, under Blogs

5 years ago I did not like Death Cab For Cutie. The few songs I’d heard on Clearchannel radio stations always managed to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I thought Ben Gibbard’s vocals were too nasally and high-pitched. That is, until I started watching a television program on PBS called “Austin City Limits.” Playing cuts from their 2005 album Plans, I began to fall in love with the Seattle group’s distinct sound. A mesh of melody, harmony, instrumentation, and catchy lyrics, Death Cab fever began to set in.

In 2008, during the Democratic National Convention here in Denver, I got my first chance to see Gibbard and Walla perform. It was amazing! Armed with 2 acoustic guitars and a baby grand piano, they cut through the political tensions with tune after tune, performed with beautiful simplicity. I knew then that this was one of my favorite groups.

Fast forward to the present day. Death Cab is prepping a new release of some b-sides from their 2008 full length Narrow Stairs and has been debuting tracks on Stereogum (links below). In addition to that, they’re going on tour (again). Last year I missed their performance at Red Rocks because 1: I was out of town and 2: I didn’t have any money. Well, I wasn’t about to let the same thing happen again, so last week I spent my $50 to get a ticket to what will likely be one of the best shows of the year (even though it’s not going down until July). Furthermore, my other current favorites Andrew Bird and Ra Ra Riot are playing. It will surely be an amazing night.

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Top 10 Albums of 2008

by on Jan.19, 2009, under "Best of" Lists


This is a collaborative article, it’s the work of Jake, Spencer and myself.

Top Ten Mainstream Albums

1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

Although a debut album, the Fleet Foxes sound more mature and together on their self-titled release than most bands ever sound. Harmonically, the band sounds almost immaculate. They create an ethereal mood which is hard to lose after listening to the album. Although lyrically straightforward, the music is the important part of this album and it is executed astonishingly well. Listen to “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” “White Winter Hymnal,” and “He Doesn’t Know Why.” -JR

2. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

The New York indie scene broke out nationally this year, and leading the wave was Vampire Weekend. Their sweater-vested semi-classical approach to music is infused with African drum beats and subtle pop-culture references. Catchy melodies and lyrics match the equally well orchestrated instruments on VW’s first album. Listen to “Mansard Roof,” “A-Punk,” and “I Stand Corrected.” -TW

3. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords

It’s not often that a comedy album makes the top ten albums list for a year, but Flight of the Conchord’s self-titled album is more than your average comedy album. The first release from the New Zealand duo is satirical and sarcastic in every sense; even the music mocks popular styles. The songs are simultaneously well-produced musically and hilarious lyrically. Listen to “Think About It,” “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros,” and “Business Time.” -JR

4. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak

Innovation occurs when risks are taken. Kanye’s newest record does not pick up where 2007′s Graduation left off, but instead cuts a new track. Markedly simpler in production, 808s relies heavily on three things: drum machines, lyrics, and auto-tune. This move produced one of the most honest sounding hip-hop records released last year. Listen to “Paranoid,” “Street Lights,” and “RoboCop.” -TW

5. Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

A mark of a great song is when the same melody from it can be repeatedly played without losing interest. Death Cab for Cutie tested this theory multiple occasions on this album and proved it true. Although being deceptively simple, many songs from this album have the potential to stay around for years. With a superb blend of light vocals and mixed instruments, this album will not soon be forgotten. Listen to “Cath…” and “No Sunlight.” -SN

6. TV On The Radio – Dear Science

In their newest album, TV On The Radio brilliantly uses drum loops and deep, eerie lyrics to present an interesting and fun record. Dear Science is at times chaotic, at times somber, and at times full of grandiose beauty. At all times, however, it is intelligent, entertaining, and deeply poignant. Listen to “Lover’s Day,” “Golden Age,” and “Halfway Home.” -JR

7. Anberlin – New Surrender

Shifting into a more mainstream sound has not stopped Anberlin from continuing their stream of catchy lyrics and melodies. Despite a deeper dependence on a synthesizer, Anberlin’s music continues to be driven by fast guitars and unforgettable lyrics. Listen to “Breaking” and “Haight St.” -SN

8. Coldplay – Viva La Vida (Or Death and All His Friends)

Hailed as the new U2, Coldplay shot to stardom unflinchingly with their previous albums. Holding up under the intense expectations of fans and critics alike, Viva la Vida portrays Coldplay’s classic sound in some songs, while musically progressing in others. Listen to “Lost!” and “Violet Hill.” -SN

9. Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns

Snow Patrol combines a fast-paced alternative rock sound with simple melodies and song structures for a relaxing album. With an unusual singing style that varies through the album, A Hundred Million Suns keeps originality close to its core. Listen to “If There’s a Rocket Tie Me To It” and “Disaster Button.” ­-SN

10. I Hate Kate – Embrace The Curse

This record mixes 80′s new wave with modern pop to produce an enjoyable listening experience. Perhaps one of the best parts of this album is that there is definite ebb and flow; not every song sounds the same. Listen to “Bed of Black Roses,” “It’s You,” and “I’m In Love With A Sociopath.” -TW

Albums You Should Know

1. Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line

With a strong string section composed of a violin and a cello, Ra Ra Riot’s quick yet relaxed sound is excellent for studying, but is also upbeat enough to dance to. With a perfect blend of all instruments, they skillfully move from songs reminiscent of the Beatles to an 80′s style synthesis-driven song to a Kate Bush cover written in waltz time. The phenomenal chemistry of the band is well represented by all aspects of the album. Listen to “Dying is Fine” and “St. Peter’s Day Festival.” -SN

2. Sigur Rós -Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

Beautiful and unique soundscapes fill Icelandic band Sigur Rós’s newest release. Jónsi Birgisson’s falsetto voice at times soars above the background music in a piercing and intense way. Other times, he matches the tone and intensity of the sound he is singing with, creating some of the most ethereal and stunning sounds being produced by any band today. Listen to “Gobbledigook,” “Við spilum endalaust,” and “Suð í eyrum.” -JR

3. Colour Revolt – Plunder, Beg & Curse

Realization, raw vocals, and silvery-sounding guitars fill this record. Lyrically reminiscent of the epic poems, it maintains timeless ideas about the frailty of humanity and the fleeting nature of temptation. Musically, singer Jesse Coppenbarger’s intense delivery matches the well-produced instrumentation. Even with a few exceptionally strong tracks, this album should be taken as a whole. Listen to “Moses of the South,” “A Siren,” and “What Will Come of Us?” -TW

4. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride

In their 16th album, The Mountain Goats continue to impress with deep and touching lyrics, complimented with equally touching melodies. Lead singer John Darnielle’s vocal skills, which allow him to move from a warbled, but pure, quiet to a confident, and sometimes angry, crescendo, drive the album. However, brilliant guitar and drum playing accent the music more readily in any previous Mountain Goats releases. Listen to “San Bernadino,” “Heretic Pride,” and “So Desperate.” ­-JR

5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!

After a four year hiatus, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds returned in 2008 with their 14th studio album. In it, the band seems to forget that twenty-year-old groups are supposed to put out predictable albums, instead producing what may be their most exciting release to date. Lead singer Cave sounds like any punk rock frontman should – full of swagger and an attitude which compliments the driving bass and drum beats. Listen to “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!,” “Albert Goes West,” and “We Call Upon the Author.” -JR

6. Nada Surf – Lucky

Nada Surf is one of those bands that has been around for over 10 years and has not released a bad record. Lucky showcases a more mature and developed sound with beautiful melodies and bright lyrics. Listen to “Whose Authority,” “Weightless,” and “Are You Lightning?” -TW

7. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges

If My Morning Jacket wanted to make an album which was easily pigeon-holed, they wouldn’t have made Evil Urges. They spend time flirting with psychedelic hippie rock, play with folk roots, and throw in some late-80s electronica. However, each song is without genre, and distinctly My Morning Jacket. Listen to “I’m Amazed,” “Evil Urges,” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pts. 1 & 2.” -JR

8. The New Frontiers – Mending

A bold mix of indie-pop and alt-country, the only full length release of the now-disbanded New Frontiers is a monument to their musical prowess. Mending covers a broad range of emotions and poses deep questions. Listen to “Black Lungs,” “This Is My Home,” and “Who Will Give Us Love?” -TW

9. We Shot The Moon – Fear And Love

Formed in the wake of Waking Ashland’s breakup in 2007, We Shot the Moon managed to produce a well-put together album within a year. The piano-based songs are well-balanced with their lyrical style. Uplifting and upbeat, their songs leave the listener feeling quite positive. Listen to “LTFP” and “Julie.” -SN

10. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound

The ’59 Sound channels the classic sound of Bruce Springsteen while adding straightforward punk sensibility and style. This record inspires a certain sense of nostalgia with enjoyable and danceable tunes. Listen to “Old White Lincoln,” “The ’59 Sound,” and “Miles Davis & The Cool.” -TW

Local Releases of Note

3OH!3 – Want

In an innovative fusion of rap and techno, these two white guys from Boulder certainly have gained massive popularity across Colorado. Selling out their highly energetic shows quickly, 3OH!3 has developed a large fan base in this state. Their album goes from one dance-worthy song to another with impossible to forget melodies. Listen to “I Can’t Do It Alone” and “Starstrukk.” -SN

Fear Before – Fear Before

Hardcore music has never been more accessible than with Fear Before’s newest release. Opting to focus more on melody and lyrics instead of sheer heavy sounds, this record is enjoyable even outside of a mosh pit. Listen to “Treeman” and “Review Our Lives (Epic).” -TW

DeVotchKa – A Mad & Faithful Telling

DeVotchKa, the Denver band made famous by their appearance on the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, continues to use unique instrumentation and imitate unique music styles very effectively in their newest album. They incorporate Eastern European, Spanish, Mexican, and American music in a unique and interesting way. Listen to “Basso Profundo” and “Along the Way.” -JR

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Album Review: Narrow Stairs

by on Sep.15, 2008, under Album Reviews

This review marks the first time that I started using a more straightforward format for reviews.


Last spring, as the days began to grow longer and thoughts of warmer days occupied students’ minds, an album was released. Even before its release, Narrow Stairs had generated a decent amount of publicity. When the disc finally dropped, it was not quite what many people expected.


Death Cab for Cutie, a Seattle band that has been creating music for the better part of the last ten years, began small, but has since grown in standing and sound. The first mainstream success Death Cab for Cutie saw was their 2003 album Transatlanticism, followed two years later by the even more popular album Plans.

Those records did more for the band than simply providing extra money or even allowing them to sell out venues across the globe. Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie front man and lyricist, became the indie-rock equivalent of Jack Kerouvac. At the same time, Chris Walla, Death Cab’s lead guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, branched out into the world of production and has been behind the scenes on some of the top indie records produced in the last five years.

Best Song:

“Cath” is the best representation of the current Death Cab sound. Catchy guitar riffs and a good dose of percussion keep this song from dragging. The track has a warm feel and an excellent music video which helps play out the lyrical imagery and storyline.

Song to Skip:

The first four minutes of “I Will Possess Your Heart.” Building toward something epic is great, but after two minutes of listening to the same bass riff the song becomes dry. The lyrics are catchy, but depend too much on repetition. By the end of the song the listener is ready for the next track.

Final Thoughts:

The first time listening to this record, do not expect it to be Plans 2: The Electric Boogaloo. While Plans had an almost perfect and surgical attention to detail, Narrow Stairs is more of an exploration of sound. The lyrics are poetic and the overall sound is warm and deep. On some tracks (“Grapevine Fires” and “Your New Twin Sized Bed”), Narrow Stairs will cause the listener to think of a dreamy, warm summertime afternoon while other tracks (“The Ice Is Getting Thinner” and “Talking Bird”) are slightly more chilling. Fortunately for Death Cab, they have not let their mainstream successes dictate their sound, so they still have credibility as musical artists. Overall, it is not the type of record that can be taken in pieces, but must be listened to as an entire composition.

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Album Review: Field Manual

by on Feb.04, 2008, under Album Reviews

Now that January has come and gone, the music industry is willing to release new albums, and for fans of Death Cab For Cutie, Chris Walla’s Field Manual is a must have. Walla currently plays guitar for Death Cab For Cutie, and has recorded and produced records with The Decemberists, Nada Surf, and Hot Hot Heat. The story behind the release of this album actually started last year when the laptop that contained the mastered tracks was seized by Homeland Security as Walla was crossing through the Canadian border. Apparently this confiscation was a mistake and he got his computer back soon after. As for the music itself, don’t be surprised to hear the ghosts of old Death Cab For Cutie albums show up on this disc.

The album begins with “Two-Fifty,” a mix of reverb laden vocals and computer sampled beats. This stands as a contrast to the pop melodies that drive “The Score” and Field Manual’s first single “Sing Again.” Walla, a current Portland resident, asks “Colorado are you listening? Do you hear me? Do you even care?” on “A Bird Is A Song,” a softer, stripped down tune. “Geometry & C” begins with an intro that almost sounds like “Crooked Teeth” from Death Cab For Cutie’s 2005 album Plans, but is distinctly a Walla original. Through the middle of the album Walla sticks to his pop-indie sound until “It’s Unsustainable,” which once again sounds like a b-side to Plans. Finally, “Holes” closes the album simply yet beautifully.

As far as lyrics go, Chris Walla is definitely not standing in Ben Gibbard’s, or anyone else’s, shadow. “Sing Again” is just catchy, yet so simple, but still manages to speak to human resolve with these lyrics: “Here’s to poison, you will hear the noises, you will fear the breaking, it’s all yours for the taking.” Walla’s questions about Colorado listening and caring really hit home, especially for residents of the Centennial State, because he poses his question in a poetic way.

Taken all together, Field Manual is a breath of fresh air for a year that hasn’t heard much in the area of decent new music releases. Chris Walla is innovative, yet still true to the sounds he has developed through years of playing and producing.

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