Death Cab for Cutie are no strangers to the allure of releasing EPs instead of full albums. Their latest, The Open Door is a familiar style for fans and highly accessible for newcomers to the Death Cab ethos.
It is their fourth EP but the first that wasn’t originally designed with the EP format in mind. Instead, its five tracks are songs that were omitted from their latest album “Narrow Stairs”. Recorded at the same time, these are tracks which, for whatever reason, didn’t fit with the album.
“When we finished ‘Narrow Stairs,'” bassist Nick Harmer recently told MTV.com, “there were four extra songs that, because we were trying to put together an album, we ended up not including – it’s not like they’re castoffs or anything; they’re part of the ‘Narrow Stairs’ experience. They needed to have a proper home, and the EP is it.”
It’s certainly true that the songs don’t feel like castoffs. In fact, they are every bit as compelling as any song on Narrow Stairs. The EP has four new songs as well as a demo version of the popular “Talking Bird”.
The first number is “Little Bribes”, a catchy and whimsical tune brimming with upbeat energy and an infectious melody. The second track “Diamond and the Tether” is far more somber with lyrics like “love is a lesson I can’t learn, I make the same mistakes at each familiar turn”. Musically, it is much quieter and more introspective, a trait many Death cab songs have had in the past.
“The Mirror Speaks” seems to hit the middle ground between sadness and hope and is the best of the tracks on the EP. It is a well balanced marriage of lyrics and instrumental lending it a pop sensibility while still retaining its underlying sadness.
The final new track, “I Was Once A Loyal Lover” has some great lyrics but the accompanying music seems a little underdeveloped, or perhaps just a little less refined than the other songs. While it works, in a way, it doesn’t mesh with the vocals as well as its brethren and, while still enjoyable, lacks the same impact.
The demo of talking bird is a nice addition for fans as it shows the changes make to the song between demo and final release but, truth be told, the differences are fairly minimal.
Death Cab For Cutie have always been able to traverse a fine line between somber and uplifting with their eclectic musical styles and this EP is no exception. It is certainly as good as anything on narrow stairs and doesn’t seem like a collection of leftovers. Fans will enjoy it quite a bit but it also has enough appeal to bring a new audience into the fold as well.