According to the all knowing source of information/sink hole of procrastination that is Wikipedia, Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery and a philosophy of treating breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. When you take into consideration the lyrical content of Death Cab For Cutie’s latest effort, it’s also an incredibly apt title for the bands eighth LP.
Although there are upbeat and uplifting shards sewn into synth leads and drum hits within Kintsugi, the record sees Death Cab move away from the more positive vibes of their previous release, Codes and Keys. Instead, Ben Gibbard’s lyricism leans much closer to the kind of bittersweet melancholy that has produced some of their most distinct and celebrated material. Granted, there isn’t anything on this record that draws comparison to the outfit’s highest points, but it is still very much a record that’s both finely formed and very personal.
The album is, as the title’s definition suggests, a mix of both breakage and repair, two elements that Gibbard is consciously embracing to the fullest. Whether Gibbard is alluding to his divorce from Zooey Deschanel (“No Room In Frame”, “Little Wanderer”) or delving into more vague, historical cracks and fractures (“You’ve Haunted Me All My Life”, “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive”), there is quite a potent mix of regret and acceptance scattered throughout the album. The juxtaposition of the two and the conceptual theme of facing whats happened, whether it be with understanding or uncertainty, provides some of the more earnest and open-hearted songwriting we’ve heard from Death Cab for some time.
Musically, the group isn’t really moving out of their comfort zone, granted there are some seeds of 80’s pop and new wave placed within the albums musicality. The kind of analogue electronics that underwired Gibbard’s side project The Postal Service make an appearance here and there too, but for the most part, Kintsugi is largely comprised of the melodic, lo-fi pop rock we’ve come to expect. With this being the last record to feature founding member Chris Walla, who knows, maybe Death Cab’s future endeavours may feature more experimental ideas and make bolder moves. For right now, though, the band is delivering their standard, precisely-cut material, which honestly I’m more than ok with.