Death Cab for Cutie - The Open Door EP
Record Label: Atlantic Records
Release Date: April 14, 2009
Death Cab for Cutie's The Open Door EP is a collection of leftover tracks that didn't make it onto the genre-defining indie-rockers' latest full length, Narrow Stairs, along with a demo version of that album's "Talking Bird."
How Is It?
When approaching the first listen to a release of this type, it's probably best to proceed with caution and not to expect too much. After all, if the material wasn't good enough to make the album, how good could it be? Then again, we're talking about Death Cab for Cutie, and the album in question was one of the best (or at least one of my favorite) releases of 2008 and a solid addition to the band's already highly-celebrated catalog. With these factors in mind, my own expectations for the EP ran a little higher than I'd normally allow, but The Open Door did not disappoint.
As you'd expect, the songs on the EP sound a lot like those on Narrow Stairs, so fans of that album should enjoy this as well. As usual, Ben Gibbard's lyrics and vocals are the centerpoint, and as on Stairs the band performs in the similarly organic guitar rock style, a la Built to Spill (listen to the guitar squall on opener "Little Bribes"), that made the album a slight departure from their earlier polished pop sound, while also being a further testament to Gibbard's status as a melodic mastermind. Supposedly left off the album because they didn't mesh with the feel of the record, the songs aren't second-rate at all, and the only reason any one of them would sound strange to me among the album's tracks is because I've listened to it so many times as it is.
Gibbard is known is one of music's more earnest lyricists, and The Open Door EP finds him expectedly confessional. There's a thematic consistency running through the songs that makes this set feel like a cohesive whole. On "A Diamond and a Tether," he paints himself as someone with "fantasies of being alone" who "won't jump when he falls in love." Likewise, on "My Mirror Speaks," he's "a man who hides from all that binds" that can't help but "fall in love with an open door." The title of "I Was Once a Loyal Lover" telegraphs its content, Gibbard's boredom in relationships, as he makes the comparison, "Life with a nice girl's like waiting for a bus to work." The Open Door is an apt title for the collection, as it focuses largely on his propensity to run out on his current situation. His lyrics indicate a keen self-awareness-- he knows he's his own worst enemy, but just can't seem to help himself.
The EP probably could have done without the demo version of "Talking Bird," accompanied only by the strumming of a ukulele. For me, the final version was one of the weaker moments on Narrow Stairs and this version could have gone unheard, not to mention that it just sounds out of place on this set. Otherwise, the previously unreleased material is sure to please fans of Death Cab in general and Narrow Stairs in particular, providing just enough to hold us over until the next release.