Monday, August 8, 2022

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Sound Check


Death Cab For CutieDeath Cab

Death Cab For Cutie is perhaps the most transparent band ever. For much of its career, the band was content to wallow in the Elliot Smith, doom and gloom end of the sonic pool. Then singer Ben Gibbard found love, and out comes 2011’s preternaturally boring “Codes and Keys.” Now Gibbard is divorced, and founding member/producer Chris Walla has left the band, so it is time to get gloomy again. When it works for them, it really, really works. With its deeper-than-they-sound lyrics and delightfully delivered guitar, “Little Wanderer” is the best track on the album and one of the best Death Cab songs since 2008. But too often “Kintsugi” becomes bogged down by the band’s own navel gazing. The album frequently gets lazy and expects Gibbard’s vocals to do the heavy lifting. He has pulled it off before, but here, with tracks like “Hold no Guns” and “Binary Sea,” he just sounds bored. So are we, Ben. So are we. CV


William Elliott WhitmoreWilliam Elliott Whitmore
“Radium Death”

Iowa’s own black earth troubadour is back. “Radium Death” offers a different look at Whitmore’s sound and serves as a genuine departure from 2011’s “Field Songs.” The man’s solid, dusky vocals are now backed by a full band, taking some of the pressure off his voice. But do not think that Whitmore uses the relief as an excuse to take it easy. Instead, with a broader sound behind him to help carry the stories, Whitmore feels free to explore the width and breadth of his own vocals. Some people still will not like it, because the extra instrumentation ensures that you never get a really good, long listen to the glorious texture of Whitmore’s voice. But for those willing to give the album more than one listen, “Radium Death” provides one of the most nuanced looks at Whitmore that we have ever seen. CV

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