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Many people can trace their love for music back to a specific artist or group. For me, that group is Death Cab for Cutie. I was nine when Plans came out in 2005, and I immediately fell in love with the band’s distinct sorrowful sound, despite not understanding the gravity of their lyrics. For years, their music inspired me in countless ways, and it saw me through what is arguably the worst part of childhood: middle school. In the last decade, Death Cab has released two more albums, Narrow Stairs and Codes and Keys, and while each has its merits, neither comes close to the near perfection of Plans.

But on March 31, the band released Kintsugi, and with its release, I was taken back to that initial adoration I had for Death Cab for Cutie. When the first four songs from the album were released weeks before Kintsugi’s release, I was worried they had made the mistake of playing all their cards prematurely. This is not the case. Kintsugi is a return to the mournful ballads and catchy melancholia Narrow Stairs and Codes and Keys were criticized for deviating from. Gibbard’s engaging vocals blend effortlessly with the instrumentals on every track, and while each song is not necessarily a stand alone single, the weaker tracks link the stronger songs effortlessly.

Unfortunately, the return of the more typical Death Cab for Cutie album does little to draw in new fans. Listeners who did not enjoy Plans will likely have the same reaction to Kintsugi. That said, the album isn’t a rip off of Plans. The band has added everything they did right with Narrow Stairs and Codes and Keys without any of the problems those albums had. The songs have catchy drumbeats that balance the sadness detected in many of their lyrics and carry the listener from the opening lines of “No Room in Frame” to the final notes of “Binary Sea.”

Upon having heard the album for the first time, a friend of mine noted that Death Cab for Cutie’s music can either blend into the background or be listened to intently. He’s absolutely right, but Kintsugi deserves your complete, undivided attention.

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