Death Cab for Cutie’s Short Album with a Statement

In just five songs, “The Open Door” by Death Cab for Cutie tackles love, narcissism and phoniness. Released in 2009, “The Open Door” features songs that did not make it onto Death Cab for Cutie’s last full album, “Narrow Stairs.” Although it is not a full-length album, “The Open Door” has the same emotional intensity and thoughtfulness as Death Cab’s full albums. Each song presents its own personality, and any listener can gain a full musical experience from just this small taste of the band’s talent. “Little Bribes,” the opening song of the album sets the ball rolling immediately with its energetic guitar and drums. Like most Death Cab for Cutie songs, the lyrics of “Little Bribes” are multi-layered, and one of those layers is inevitably romantic. The band’s lead singer Ben Gibbard sings about the “empty faces of the dealers and the waitresses” in Las Vegas, and he goes on to describe a woman he meets. Among the masses of people in Las Vegas, Gibbard finds someone full of life. On a broader level, Gibbard is singing about empty lives average people lead. Like much of “Narrow Stairs,” The Open Door boasts a blend of acoustic sound with some electric instruments mixed in. The album, however, has no computerized sounds. Death Cab for Cutie is part of the Anti-Auto Tune Movement, a demonstration against the excessive use of auto-tuning in the music industry. Other musicians involved include Christina Aguilera and Jay-Z. One of the simpler songs on the album is “Diamond and a Tether,” which directly tackles commitment. The song’s simple chords and lyrics convey the message quite clearly, especially when Gibbard sings, “I know you can’t hold out forever waiting on a diamond and a tether from a boy who won’t jump when he falls in love.” The highlight of the album, especially for avid fans, is a demo version of the band’s hit song, “Talking Bird.” With only a ukulele in the background, the demo version takes on a much happier tone than the original version. It also features only Gibbard’s vocals, while the version in “Narrow Stairs” contains some complex harmonies. No matter which version, the song is a perfect example of the band’s use of metaphor in its music. “Talking Bird” is about loving someone despite their imperfections. As the song progresses, Gibbard shows that he will love this person under all circumstances. The song, however, says nothing directly about relationships. Instead, it revolves around a bird in a cage that is “free to leave or stay.” Tender and sweet, “Talking Bird” ends the album on a high note. Although it showcases a range of emotions, “The Open Door” has an angrier tone than previous Death Cab for Cutie albums. Three of the five songs are frustrated anthems about relationships, and after a while, the theme becomes redundant. The album’s saving graces are its mellower pieces, which provide a relaxing break from the intense emotions. For seasoned listeners of the band, “The Open Door” is the perfect addition to a Death Cab for Cutie collection. At the same time, it is a great introduction for new listeners—short and sweet, it will show what the band can do and make listeners crave for more.