Sound: Ben Gibbard’s vocals are as clear, gentle and pretty as ever as he narrates pained and occasionally creepy descriptions of love sought and love lost. Musically, Narrow Stairs delivers a tighter and more pounding rhythmic attack than their last two, more atmospheric albums did, and the guitar riffs have a darker, more ominous bite. The indie pop darlings have recaptured the edge of 2001’s excellent The Photo Album (my #10 album of 2001), while expanding the depths of their sound.
Heavy Rotation tracks: “Long Division”; “Pity and Fear”; “Cath…”; “Your New Twin Sized Bed”
Medium Rotation tracks: “No Sunlight”; “You Can Do Better Than Me”; “The Ice Is Getting Thinner”; “I Will Possess Your Heart”
Recommended: The last two Death Cab albums had several quality, beautiful songs, but they both had a tendency to meander a bit. Narrow Stairs is a more immediate and ambitious jolt that results in the best album of their illustrious career. And it actually gets better as it goes – the first half is solid, but the second half is even better.
Grade: A- (Top 20 Albums of 2008 Candidate)