Death Cab For Cutie – Keys & Codes Remix EP

Indie rock stalwarts Death Cab for Cutie have finally released their highly anticipated follow-up remix EP to Codes and Keys, titled Keys and Codes. Promising a less guitar-centric album (a shift from 2008’s Narrow Stairs) was somewhat surprising. Keys and Codes does sound different from the rest of the band’s catalog. What they meant though is that the guitars would be used in different ways, such as translating melodies into vocals or keyboards. Although patent with likeable highs and forgettable lows, the 7-track remix lifts and builds on the original album. The claims of extended experimentation aren’t as spurious this time around. With Ben Gibbard’s electronic Postal Service project, you have to wonder – why didn’t this synth-love happen sooner?
“Doors Unlocked And Open” kicks off the album with a slow build up to some seriously incessant key work and swirling synths. The Cut Copy remix finds a truly melodic groove halfway through the 7-minute track – the longest on the EP – a song you can imagine coming on at dusk at someone’s summer party. Equally impressive is Unicorn Kid’s version of “Unobstructed Views” with its synth-pop goodness and vast production. Similarly, The 2 Bears’ creative and intemperately catchy cut of “You Are a Tourist” creates a spacey yet buoyant atmosphere while the guitar work remains on par with earlier Death Cab releases. Nearing the track’s end Gibbard’s voice splices into bits and pieces via some effective voice filtering making him sound like he’s coming from all different directions. These are the best tracks on the album.

Dillon Francis’ “Underneath the Sycamore” immediately launches into warped vocals leading you to a gaping vortex of intense mayhem. Gibbard’s lyrics on the original track convey DCFC’s trademark emotion and ubiquitous oeuvre by painting lonely and heartbroken characters, but there’s absolutely no trace of this in Dillon Francis’ remix. It remains self-assured and backed with a full and confident sound. “Some Boys” by RAC Maury falls short as it brings to mind Gibbard’s patented treatises on the ways other boys can be so uncouth (a trope he’d do well to abandon). Ulrich Schnauss’s remix of “Home Is a Fire” is ace, while Yeasayer (Brooklyn warped psych-pop outfit remixer) delivers a perfectly acceptable version of “Codes and Keys”.

Leaving behind the remnants, which sound like leftovers from Narrow Stairs, DCFC have taken the better tracks from Codes and Keys to create a sonically expansive 7-track record that’ll leave you satisfactorily spaced out. The change is a good one for the band and injects new life into music that has become formulaic for them. While Codes and Keys brings to mind the words “lovely, thoughtful and agreeable,” it leaves the listener with a thirst for more. There is a certain tectonic shift towards a sense of maturity, which the remix EP brings forward. The Keys and Codes Remix EP has a more refined version of the original, a prospective glance into future projects for the band. 
by Natali Lambevska

December 7th 2011
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