Death Cab are a band that I discovered in middle school. "Cath" started playing on the radio while my mom was driving me to school, and something about their sound enchanted me. Their sorrowful, yet serene and relaxing indie rock sound just had a grip on me. I have so many wonderful memories tied to their 2000s work (and even some of Codes and Keys). WIth that in mind, you can imagine that I've been disappointed with their output over the past decade. I do get some enjoyment out of the aforementioned Codes and Keys, as well as Thank You for Today (we don't talk about Kintsugi) but they haven't released something genuinely amazing since Narrow Stairs.
Then this album drops.
Asphalt Meadows manages to take the bright sheen of their 2010's output with the stellar compositions and hooks of their best records. Songs like the title track and "Here to Forever" take me back to my middle school days of vibing in my room at night to the catchier songs on Transatlanticism, with a modern flair that makes the tracks sound fresh. There's also songs like the opener, "I Don't Know How I Survive" that provide a distorted, satisfying pay off that make it a treat to sit through. Or the even more rewarding "Foxglove Through the Clearcut" which hits the criteria of what my boyfriend likes to call peak music. I also wanna shout out "I Miss Strangers" for simply just being a banger (or at least, Death Cab's version of a banger lmao).
I also appreciate this record's ability to be pretty varied, while still being perfectly cohesive. The closer, "I'll Never Give Up On You", is a synth-focused track that doesn't sound much like the other songs on the album, but still manages to be a satisfying closer. Every song is placed perfectly in the track list, which is something that I've always appreciated from this band, even on their weaker releases (except Kintsugi, banish that damn thing to hell).
My main gripes are that I do kind of wish Ben's vocals were a little more dynamic (which, let's be frank, has always been the band's biggest problem). Even though it's not exactly a new issue, it's not one that has been resolved. This second point isn't much of a knock against the record itself, but I feel like it's lacking that emotional centerpiece that a lot of their best albums have. "Foxglove" comes close, but I feel like a grand statement of a track is really needed to tie the whole thing together.
Overall though, I'm over the fucking moon. I thought Death Cab were kind of just going to be a band that I nostalgia coast on for the rest of their existence as a band, without any real fantastic output. I honestly would've been content with that—but that's not what happened. Ben and the gang put out a late career banger of an album, and it made my month.
Thank you Death Cab for giving me this spark of joy during the stress that is my first semester of college. I needed it.
FAVORITES: I Don't Know How I Survive | Roman Candles | Asphalt Meadows | Here to Forever | Foxglove Through the Clearcut | I Miss Strangers
LEAST FAVORITES: Rand McNally | Fragments from the Decade