Thank You For Today reminds us what an essential band Death Cab are, and while their chirpy melancholia is divisive as ever, for those on this side of the fence this album is simply sublime.
Ben Gibbard is in his forties now, and while his focus and inspirations has caught up with him, his writing still holds an adolescent quality. This is a feature not a defect, imbuing these songs with invention where more generic lyrics would allow the pensive tone to slip to sheer maudlin.
Gibbard focuses on the things a forty two year old dude is meant to worry about: gentrification, cheapening of culture, and responsibility for the new generation. How he approaches these subjects however is undiminished, with the same precise, neurotic, literate style.
Opener ‘I Dreamt We Spoke’ is frankly excellent, with a classic Gibbardian progression, gorgeously melancholic riff and a clean yet woozy sound. Rich Costey produces, as he did on the unappreciated Kintsugi, and it’s just as well. The sheen Costey brings glazes the rougher elements of Death Cab, and while this means a few edges are sanded off, it also allows for some beautifully smooth textures.
The seasonal songs are the best: ‘Summer Years’ for its chorus and ‘Autumn Love’ for the melody. These can easily stand amongst Death Cab’s best, capturing two conflicting responses to the idea of moving on. Where ‘Summer Years’ fears abandonment, ‘Autumn Love’ rejoices in possibilities anew.
‘Gold Rush’ features a sample of Yoko Ono’s ‘Mindtrain’, from which it borrows the rhythm. It’s a shame it doesn’t lean a little heavier on the sample, as the punchy beat is eventually buried beneath the perfectly nice but unengaging chorus. However, the lament for the suburbs rapidly vanishing from every major city you’d care to name, is a worthy cause of a pop song.
There are still a few lyrical clunkers: peep the line “You used to be such a delicate kid
/ A lonely fish in a sea full of squid“. However the song itself (‘Your Hurricane’) is still solid, and the uncharacteristically chirpy ‘Northern Lights’ is elevated by a surprise cameo from CHVRCHES’ Lauren Mayberry – likely the result of a shared producer in Costey, and Mayberry’s appearance on a live performance of ‘Brothers On a Hotel Bed’.
Thank You For Today may not quite reach the heights of the exceptional Transatlanticism or the wholesale reinvention of Codes & Keys. However it is still a beautiful record. No band inhabits the tone and emotion of autumn quite like Death Cab, and as the season approaches there is no better time to get reacquainted.