Death Cab For Cutie
THE BLUE EP, 180G Black Vinyl EP Record, BARK188
Death Cab have always had a deceptively strong EP game, which doesn’t hurt; the loyal know that Forbidden Love EP, The John Byrd EP, and the wholly unfuckwithable Stability EP (which features a killer cover of Björk’s “All Is Full Of Love” and the 13-minute “Stability,” which saw later life as Plans‘ more digestible “Stable Song”) are essential releases in the Ben Gibbard canon.
But where Blue diverges is that it feels designed to reverse engineer songs around the muddy vocals of its predecessor. While the album was shiny and sterile, Blue is grimy and loud throughout. Opener “To the Ground” kicks us off with a wash of feedback and perhaps the most aggressive drums you’ve ever heard from the band, the kick drums tinged with distortion. Then Gibbard comes in, vividly describing a hideous, fiery car crash leading to the “charred remains” of said car being overtaken by nature, a surprisingly beautiful endpoint for such a grim setup. This proves a great way to lead into “Kids in ‘99,” in which Gibbard wonders where the kids who died in the Olympic Pipeline Explosion might be today. Gibbard is no stranger to using fire as a backdrop for his songs, but this duo does a lot to make it far more sinister.
The remainder of the EP continues to surprise. The self-produced “Man in Blue” is a sleepy song with a throbbing bass beat running underneath a gentle drone and guitar rhythm, Gibbard in full mope mode: “And I just want to understand you/ I don’t need to be your man in blue.” The dreamy “Blue Bloods,” which slowly builds increasingly noisy layers on itself while he goes into a cutting mode for the first time since probably “Tiny Vessels”: “All these East Coast blue bloods that come out west/And I watch them argue about who loved you the best,” he sings at the top of the song.
“Blue Bloods” and “To the Ground” are some of his sharpest songs in a long time, a faint hint at what a “return to form” might look like for the band at this point.