This news is so old it has grand-children, but bear with me here, because I promise I have something to add to it. Death Cab for Cutie is recording, and on his blog, Chris Walla described it thusly:
The DCfC record is in full swing; we’re six songs in. Thus far it’s pretty weird, and pretty spectacular; lots of blood. It’s creepy and heavy… We’ve got a ten minute long Can jam, and had you suggested that possibility to me in 1998, I’d have eaten your puppy’s brain with a spoon.
A lot of current fans will hang their heads low and fret and pout over this description, but, personally, this is what I was hoping for.
For years, Death Cab for Cutie was my band. I found them in 2000 or 2001, fell in love with We Have the Facts… and never looked back. I was the quintessential Death Cab girl – they were the band that helped me meet friends, lovers, other bands, the band that people identified with me. I can’t begin to tell you how many calls/IMs/texts I got when they started appearing all over the OC and more and more people started to fall for them. It was surreal, exciting, frightening. Here was the band I had championed for years, curled up and listened to in my best of times and worst of times, and now, all of a sudden, people were giving them a chance. It was wonderful, because I hoped for them to stay afloat so they could make music for as long as they wanted, but simultaneously terrifying, because I could no longer call the experience my own. It was hard to see something that was once so intensely personal and intimate become the same thing for everyone else. (Almost) no one wants to be the grump in the corner boasting about “I heard them first,” but it was hard not to feel robbed, somehow, when I was paying $40 to hear a sea of pubescent boys and girls sing louder than Ben Gibbard when a mere year or two earlier it was $20 and the crowd was more interested in listening to the band than singing over them.
Ultimately, though, it wasn’t the popularity that sunk Death Cab so much as the actual music. I couldn’t remember a song I didn’t like on Something About Airplanes, We Have The Facts and We’re Voting Yes, or Photo Album. I liked Transatlanticism just fine, but it missed some of the staples of their earlier works, like the bits of conversation or random sounds that Chris Walla stuck in at will. There was nothing on it that I loved, save “Lack of Color,” which Ben Gibbard was playing at his solo shows for a couple years prior. Plans was more of the same story, only more disconnected. I seemed to be one of the few whose heart wasn’t wrenched by “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” and only “Soul Meets Body” and “Summer Skin” lasted in my regularly played library past the initial “new Death Cab album!” infatuation. It felt like they had dropped the ball somewhere – they weren’t pushing their limits, their talent, just re-hashing the same product in different ways.
Death Cab for Cutie: “Dream Scream (Daniel Johnston Cover)” (download)
Right before they were opened to be engorged by all the attention, they covered Daniel Johnston’s “Dream Scream” for the tribute album, The Late, Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered, Covered. It woke me up in a way they hadn’t for a long time. This was the band doing something markedly different, but not unsettlingly so. The song has the same lyrical sentimentality that suits Ben Gibbard’s soft cry, but musically, it’s airier, spacier, jamier, more percussion filled than anything they had done before – and it transitions into that funky – almost out of place but not entirely – dance beat for the last minute. When I heard Chris Walla’s description of the new album, this song popped into mind. I’m sure this is no indication of where they’re headed – it’s simply a one-off, a cover of someone else’s approach – but I’m still optimistic.