Death Cab for Cutie's last album, 2008's Narrow Stairs, was a bit of a disappointment. The album offered few standout tracks, and if anything, the band seemed bored: It's telling that one of best moments on Narrow Stairs was the nearly five-minute instrumental introduction to "I Will Possess Your Heart," a far cry from Ben Gibbard's trademark heart-on-sleeve lyricism.
Codes and Keys, the band's seventh studio album, is currently streaming on NPR in advance of its May 31 release date, and after a quick initial listen, it already seems like a marked improvement over their previous work on Atlantic. The songs here seem punchier (see "Doors Unlocked and Open" or "Monday Morning"), and the album as a whole might be the most optimistic the band has ever recorded--an observation that could be attributed to Gibbard's marriage to Zooey Deschanel, or perhaps his recent fixation on health and fitness. Either way, Plans this is not.The new album might be the best bet for fans who missed out on Death Cab's abruptly announced performance at the Showbox Sodo two weeks ago. The band hasn't announced any shows in the Northwest outside of a headlining slot at the extremely sold-out Sasquatch! Festival this Saturday, May 28.