By Max Baker, Contributor
[Atlantic Recording Corporation, WEA International Inc.; 2022]
Key tracks: “I Don’t Know How I Survive”, “Roman Candles”, “Here To Forever”
Death Cab for Cutie has been most recognized for their 2005 album Plans with hits such as “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” and “Soul Meets Body”. With their most recent release, Asphalt Meadows, they stick with their typical indie-rock sound that brought them into popularity.
Lyrically, the album explores a lot of darker themes with its opening track “I Don’t Know How I Survive” and later in “Here To Forever”, though the entire album has themes of death, reminiscing over old loves and old times, and the struggle of merely surviving. Asphalt Meadows has a wide range of typical Death Cab sounds, while still having something for everyone. “I Don’t Know How I Survive” and “Roman Candles” shows off the more ‘rock’ part of their indie-rock label, and begs the sort of amusing question “Is Death Cab For Cutie midwest-emo?” With the themes of death and a harder guitar sound that reeks of sitting in a Walmart parking lot and wearing flannel, I just sort of get that feeling. This question gets answered with a resounding “No!” though when the title track “Asphalt Meadows”, and “Rand McNally” clearly show off their indie side with a calming melody and lyrics that focus more on love and survival, rather than the dark and almost comfortable feeling of death.
Pitchfork calls Asphalt Meadows a nostalgic album that caters to the older audience of Death Cab, that “unlocks the repressed memory of what it was like to be deeply moved by Death Cab for Cutie songs.” I can’t help but agree with this. There’s something about this album that feels like looking into a past version of yourself that you’ve grown from, but still know how to love — a self that thought the world was going to end when you left high school and went to college, a self that you look back on and give a knowing, innocent chuckle to from time to time.
Asphalt Meadows is something that I fear will go underappreciated by your average indie-rock fan, but its release is perfect for the self-reflective fall season that just hit. It’s a solid album with a lot of sonic diversity, while still having a good flow and sounding cohesive. Overall, it’s a good album, but it’s still your average indie-rock album. It’s not a new sound for Death Cab, merely just another good indie-rock record.