Death Cab for Cutie: Asphalt Meadows (Atlantic) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 28th, 2024  

Death Cab for Cutie

Asphalt Meadows


Sep 16, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Death Cab for Cutie’s 10th studio album Asphalt Meadows represents a return to the band’s classic sound, most strongly resembling 2000’s We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes and 2011’s Codes and Keys. While the Pacific Northwestern indie pioneers’ inherent romanticism still lingers throughout Asphalt Meadows, the album’s intimacy is often underscored by a bleak apocalypticism previously unexplored. This accounts for some of the album’s appeal, its moody soundscapes and weary lyrics reflecting the disillusioned exhaustion of a mid-pandemic populace. All things considered, Asphalt Meadows is easily Death Cab for Cutie’s strongest effort in over a decade and possibly the group’s most relevant release, the anxieties of modern existence stirringly distilled into its 11 exemplary tracks.

On Asphalt Meadows, the band manages to embellish its signature style and advance the sonic experimentalism begun on 2008’s Narrow Stairs. Though the youthfully nostalgic reminiscences characteristic of Death Cab’s earlier output are present, most are eclipsed by frontman Ben Gibbard’s poignant meditations on age and mortality. One senses that Gibbard no longer romanticizes death (or life, for that matter), distinguishing the album from its predecessors. Opener “I Don’t Know How I Survive” introduces this urgent apprehension, before transitioning into the industrial-infused “Roman Candles,” on which Gibbard resolves to “let go/Of everything [he] tried to hold” as he surrenders himself at last to the anticipation of societal collapse. “Now it seems more than ever there’s no hands on the levers,” he then observes on jangly existential mini-crisis and album standout “Here to Forever,” which boasts some of his finest lyrics. Moments of tender Transatlanticism-esque beauty emerge on the title track, as well as “Rand McNally” and “Pepper,” each emphasizing the group’s unique emotional weight. Finally, reflective “I’ll Never Give Up On You” finds Gibbard alternating between middle-aged cynicism and ageless determination, denouncing aspiration, trendiness, and politicians, while upholding the track’s titular promise and closing the album on an appropriately bittersweet note.

With its apparent ’80s alt and New Wave influences and timely lyrics, DCFC’s newest offering represents both a creative rebirth and necessary artistic statement. It is a bold return to form, a worthy soundtrack to the remainders of our haunted lives. Sure, founding member Chris Walla’s presence is still missed, but Death Cab for Cutie has persevered in his absence. An undeniable triumph, Asphalt Meadows is likely to gain the group new listeners, as well as thrill old fans. (

Author rating: 9/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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