Thank You for Today Death Cab for Cutie
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- 1I Dreamt We Spoke Again03:04
- 2Summer Years04:28
- 3Gold Rush04:00
- 4Your Hurricane03:18
- 5When We Drive03:49
- 6Autumn Love04:18
- 7Northern Lights03:56
- 8You Moved Away03:49
- 1060 & Punk04:05
Info for Thank You for Today
‘Thank You for Today’ is the sound of Death Cab for Cutie both expanding and refining; a band twenty years into its evolution, still uncovering new curves in its signatures, new sonic corners to explore. The Seattle band’s ninth studio album, recorded in Los Angeles with producer Rich Costey in late 2017 and early 2018, stands alongside classic Death Cab for Cutie albums including their 1998 debut ‘Something About Airplanes’ and 2003’s masterful ‘Transatlanticism’ as a definitive collection -- ten tracks that are by turns beautiful and dynamic and darkly anthemic and bittersweet. “I realized early on in the process that I wanted to write a record that is very much who we are,” says singer and guitarist Ben Gibbard. “I wanted to go more inward, and create something more personal.” On songs such as the kinetic “Gold Rush,” “Northern Lights” and “You Moved Away,” Gibbard ruminates on the flux going on in his hometown, and weaves a thread throughout the album about how interconnected geography is with memory, and how hard it can be to hold onto places, and to people, too.
Since the band’s fifth studio album ‘Plans’, Gibbard has employed the practice of going to the studio almost daily, to work on songs, even when they weren’t coming easily. “At first, I’m just throwing stuff at the wall, meditating on a number of different subjects, just trying to get lucky,” he says. Before he knew it, Gibbard had amassed more than thirty song ideas, sketched out in demos he’d share with bassist Nick Harmer, drummer Jason McGerr, guitarist/keyboardist Dave Depper, and keyboardist/guitarist Zac Rae as well as Costey. “At one point I had written so much I thought we might have two records,” says Gibbard. “But we wanted it to be concise enough that you can listen all the way through and then want to put it on again immediately.”
“The thing about Ben and his writing that to me is most inspiring is that every day, he shows up and does the work,” says Harmer. “He’ll have discouraging days and uplifting days, but his sense of discipline and commitment to his craft is just unbelievable.” Early on, a few demos started raising their hands as favorites, says Harmer. The hypnagogic album opener, “I Dreamt We Spoke Again,” with its indelible chorus, a haunting doorbell chime, and a guitar line reminiscent of ‘Music For The Masses’-era Depeche Mode, stood out right away as what Harmer calls “one of those immediately captivating tracks.”
“Gold Rush,” on the other hand, was nearly an abandoned demo that Costey encouraged Gibbard to reapproach. The song, built around a propulsive sample from Yoko Ono’s epic 1972 track “Mind Train,” ended up becoming one of the album’s most exciting tunes -- “a requiem for a skyline” and to a city whose rapid-fire development has led to a sky peppered with cranes and scaffolding. “I’ve had this realization only recently that so many of my memories are tied to my geography,” says Gibbard, describing the inspiration for the tune. “And when that geography changes, it’s as if you’re not only coming to terms with the passage of time, but it’s as if you’re losing those people and that time in your life all over again. Cities are in constant flux, and I’m not claiming victimhood in this, but the speed at which Seattle is changing, and people of color and creative communities are being pushed out, is alarming.”
Expanding on that idea in “You Moved Away,” Gibbard addresses his friend, the artist Derek Erdman, who recently left Seattle to move back to his native Chicago. “He’s an agent provacateur who does playful, absurdist art,” Gibbard explains. “He represented a kind of irreverent, sardonic side of Seattle that is rapidly disappearing as the city gets too expensive. I used to walk by Derek’s apartment on my way to the grocery store, and I’d look up and see in his window all these pieces of art he’d made. And I walk by his apartment now and I get so sad.”
Another song anchored by familiar geography is the late-album winner “Northern Lights,” which references Dye’s Inlet, in Gibbard’s hometown. “I wanted to write a song that was like a John Hughes movie that takes place in my hometown,” he says, “about two people in this suburban wasteland with nothing to do who spend their time on this body of water, one pining for the other, yet both knowing that this place will be a temporary stop in a much longer life.”
Although Gibbard’s initial creative process for this album was much the same as it had been on other recent Death Cab for Cutie LPs, there was an important change when it came time to start pre-production and recording: the addition of new members Dave Depper and Zac Rae, both of whom contribute guitar and keys. In the wake of founding member Chris Walla’s departure in 2014, Death Cab for Cutie had recruited Depper and Rae to join the band as touring players for the shows supporting their 2015 album ‘Kintsugi’. After more than a year and a half of performances together, Gibbard, Harmer and McGerr felt confident enough in Depper and Rae’s creative instincts to invite them to contribute on the new LP, as well. Says Harmer: “The excitement and enthusiasm Dave and Zac had to be part of the process was just infectious. It helped add a playfulness that allowed us to take some risks and laugh if it didn’t work out and high-five if it did. There was a freedom in just playing with one another and letting these guys show us what they were capable of, and giving them room to create.”
“Not only do we love these guys, but it felt like it would be to our benefit to make the next record with them rather than as a three piece,” says Gibbard. “Dave and Zac bring such unbelievable skill sets to the band that we’ve never had.” He cites, for instance, the array of keyboards and synthesizers Rae had at his disposal, and his accompanying skills playing them, for “tiny melodies and ambient sounds” on “Summer Years” that he says give the song a weight and complexity that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. “There’s a nervousness about bringing new people into the creative process, especially if you have lost a seminal member of the band,” says Gibbard, “But Dave and Zac were fans of the band before they were members, so they have a unique perspective on the music that the other three of us can’t see.”
The five members of Death Cab spent several weeks with Costey in his Santa Monica recording studio last fall, recording basic tracks live and later fleshing out additional layers. When they first arrived, Costey had recently finished working with another band, and had adopted their habit of closing each session by saying “Thank you for today” to each of the musicians. “We started saying it to each other every day, no matter what kind of day it had been,” Harmer says. "Whether it had been frustrating or a really great day, we’d all shake each other’s hands and say ‘Thank you for today.’ As time went on, it really started to mean something to us. It’s almost like a Rorschach test, in that it’s an oddly adaptable statement. And when we were thinking about what to call the album, it just seemed to fit so perfectly.”
Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie's rise from small-time solo project to Grammy-nominated rock band is one of indie rock's greatest success stories. Launched in the bayside college town of Bellingham, Washington, the group was originally a side project for singer/guitarist Ben Gibbard, an engineering student at Western Washington University who split his time between school and music. Taking a break from his local power pop band, Pinwheel, Gibbard began recording an album's worth of solo material during the summer of 1997. Producer Chris Walla lent his help to the sessions, which resulted in an eight-song cassette entitled You Can Play These Songs with Chords. When the tape became a local hit, Gibbard reached into his circle of friends to form a band, hoping to play the new songs live. Bassist Nick Harmer (Gibbard's roommate) and drummer Nathan Good climbed aboard, and Walla enlisted as the band's primary guitarist (he would also go on to produce most of the band's future releases). With a lineup now in place, Gibbard's group rechristened itself Death Cab for Cutie (named after a song by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) and signed a contract with the Seattle-based Barsuk Records within a year's time.
The quartet made its studio debut with 1998's Something About Airplanes, an album that featured several re-recorded tracks from the You Can Play These Songs with Chords cassette as well as a dreamy, pop-oriented sound reminiscent of Built to Spill. Gibbard and Walla both continued to pursue their own projects (including Gibbard's successful stint with the Postal Service), but that didn't keep Death Cab for Cutie from returning to the studio for a second album, We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, which appeared in 2000. Nathan Good left the group just prior to the album's completion, and We Have the Facts introduced Michael Schorr as Death Cab's new drummer. The Forbidden Love EP arrived that same year, while a third full-length effort, The Photo Album, was released in 2001. By this time, a sizable audience had gathered around the band's emotional music, and Barsuk re-released You Can Play These Songs with Chords in 2002 with ten additional songs.
The polished, hook-laden Transatlanticism arrived in 2003 and announced the arrival of drummer Jason McGerr, who had previously played in a band with Nick Harmer before Death Cab's formation. The album also proved to be a very important step in the band's career, gathering positive attention from consumers and industry execs (including television producer Josh Schwartz, who prominently featured the band's music throughout several seasons of The O.C.). With their popularity at an all-time high, the bandmates issued a live disc, The John Byrd E.P., and later signed a worldwide major-label deal with Atlantic Records in November 2004.
Plans was released the following summer and debuted at number four, remaining on the Billboard charts for nearly one year and achieving platinum status on the strength of three singles (including the acoustic ballad "I Will Follow You into the Dark"). Death Cab for Cutie graced the cover of Spin magazine, appeared on an episode of Saturday Night Live, and earned a Grammy nomination for their major-label debut. Work on a follow-up album coincided with the release of Chris Walla's solo effort, Field Manual, and Death Cab returned in May 2008 with Narrow Stairs, a darker effort that debuted at the top of the Billboard 200. The band proceeded to tour throughout the remainder of the year, while a deluxe version of Something About Airplanes (which was packaged with a recording of their very first show in Seattle) was released in November to introduce newer fans to Death Cab's early material.
The band continued touring throughout the first half of 2009, hitting Japan and Australia as well as an additional slew of American venues. The Open Door EP arrived that spring, featuring several scrapped songs from the Narrow Stairs sessions and a demo version of "Talking Bird." The guys incorporated some of those songs into their live sets, all the while preparing to return to the studio after the tour's completion. After a short hiatus, they reconvened for 2011's Codes and Keys, which found the band relying less on the electric guitar and more on moody, Cure-inspired song textures. The single "You Are a Tourist" performed well on the rock and alternative charts, and the album peaked at number three in the U.S. Later in 2011, Death Cab released an EP of remixes of songs from the album titled Keys and Codes Remix EP.
Touring consumed much of 2012, although Gibbard found time to record and release Former Lives, his first official solo album. The band began recording in earnest for their eighth studio album in October 2013; in the summer of the following year, however, Walla announced that it would be his last with the group. Eventually set for release in March 2015, it was named Kintsugi after the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. Recorded for the first time with an outside producer (Rich Costey), it also marked a return to their core guitar-driven sound after the keyboard-led experiments of its predecessor.
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