Tag: the best CDs of 2008

the 31 best of 2008 – 1: City and Colour – Bring Me Your Love

And finally… the moment you’ve all been waiting for, my number one album of 2008, by a landslide, is City and Colour’s amazing sophomore album, Bring Me Your Love.From the first sweet guitar chords of this album, through the tales of love, loss, and heartbreak, I was entranced by the sheer beauty in each song. Dallas Green (get it, a city, and a color? genius!) has an amazing quality with song writing, in that he completely wraps his heart around an emotion, and expresses it in such beautiful prose that I can really feel each break in his heart. Dallas’ stripped down acoustic style, accompanied by his incredibly beautiful and soothing voice really take each one of these songs to a level of mastery that I haven’t seen by many artists; both this year, and in my lifetime. With no facetiousness in this statement at all, I can say that Dallas Green has made a life long fan out of me with this album, and after becoming acquainted with his debut album under the name of City and Colour, I have definitely found someone that I would consider a favorite artist of mine; there aren’t many artists that I feel compelled to get everything they put out (demos, live tracks, bonuses, etc.), and City and Colour is definitely one of those very, very few. (thank GOD he is intent on using outlets like iTunes to churn these out, and I can easily get my hands on them!)

Luckily, I was able to catch him live this year, and armed with just his guitar and a microphone, he sat in his chair and poured his heart out in his music, and I completely loved every minute of it. The confidence in his lyrics and songs are coupled with this shy quality from the man singing them that make each track that much more beautiful and tender. Dallas Green himself is quite the handsome fellow as well; what can I say, a beard, black rimmed glasses, and tattoos just do it for me. It doesn’t hurt that his voice is one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard, and that he can write a song unlike most, capturing true emotion and love in a lyric. While I loved this album instantly, there are a few tracks that literally give me the chills because of how powerful and amazing they are. Sensible Heart, in particular, is definitely one of my favorite songs of all time. I can listen to it on repeat, and ever since I discovered this amazing album earlier this year, I have been. In fact, I have been listening to this album more and more with each passing month of 2008, and with each subsequent listen, I fall deeper in love with the pure passion that exists within these songs. It isn’t often that you come across an artist that is as truly understated, and as talented in song writing, orchestration, and singing as Dallas Green, and his work as City and Colour has captivated me in a way that I can’t explain. This music literally moves me, and I am more than thrilled that I randomly discovered it earlier this year.

Perhaps a sweet present to remind me that his album is the best of 2008, Dallas released a special edition of Bring Me Your Loveearlier in December, which was limited to 5000 copies. I managed to snag one, and was elated to see an inclusion of two new, and equally amazing tracks that compliment the previous release perfectly. Additionally, a second disc of demos really highlights the sheer talent that Dallas possesses in making music; the slight nuances in his guitar playing and singing are the stuff of real beauty. Honestly, I have said it many times in this review, but if I could describe City and Colour’s music with one word, it would probably be beautiful; because everything that I have heard thus far is nothing less than completely that. By far, Bring Me Your Loveis my favorite album of 2008, and for me, it was hands down the best album released all year. There wasn’t anything that captured my attention in the way that this acoustic folk-rock masterpiece did, and if there is any justice, City and Colour is surely going to be on many other people’s list of favorite artists in the future. Dallas Green is definitely my Sara Bareilles of 2008; he captured my attention with his amazing talent and beautiful music, and I am blown away by his amazing sophomore album, Bring Me Your Love,which is again by far, the best album I heard in 2008.

Sparkle Factor:
Standouts: Sensible Heart [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/fsf_829_cityandcolour-sensibleheart.mp3]
Against the Grain [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/cityandcolour-againstthegrain.mp3]
Body in a Box [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/fsf_718_cityandcolour-bodyinabox.mp3]
The Girl [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/cityandcolour-thegirl.mp3]
As Much As I Ever Could, What Makes a Man?, Sleeping Sickness, Constant Knot, Waiting.

the 31 best of 2008 – 2: Will Young – Let It Go

I want to start off by saying how it’s a damn shame that this amazing (A-M-A-Z-I-N-G) album will probably never be released here in the US, and as such, Will Young fans will be forced to shell out import prices to gain access to this amazing record. Additionally, it is a shame, because people that are not Will Young fans that would otherwise love his music will probably not be exposed to him, because of said release restrictions. Now that I got that off my chest, I want to talk about my favorite pop album of the year, Will Young’s amazing Let It Go.I first became a fan of Will when I heard the amazing song All Time Love (which is still amongst my favorite songs ever), from his previous release, Keep On. I ordered Keep On immediately, and never looked back; the brand of jazz infused, perfect pop that Will Young compliments with is gorgeous vocals fills the album, and makes for a truly amazing pop record. After falling so hard for Will with Keep On, I wanted more, and even though Keep On was his third album, his previous two efforts were bogged down by what one can only assume was a result of his contractual obligations from winning the first UK Pop Idol. While there are more than a few great tracks amongst them, the albums just don’t contain the confidence and sexy swagger that Will truly exemplifies on Keep On, and as such, I was anxious for something new (those albums are a little cover-heavy too). Well, given the fact that Keep On was released WAAAAY back in 2005, I was more than elated to hear earlier this year that Mr. Young would be releasing a new album in the fall. After hearing the lead single, Changes, I knew that the energy, power, and professionalism that Will had put into Keep On would be “keeping on” with his new album; Changes is a brilliant song.

Well, it wasn’t long before track after track was available for listen on the internet, and I instantly realized that I was sitting in front of one of the best albums of the year. There isn’t a dull moment on Let It Go; Will Young has made an album filled with heartfelt anthems of love and loss, all with his trademark sweet vocals and jazz influenced pop rock. The tenderness in his lyrics highlights Will’s brilliant song writing capability, and his choice of producer to bring the songs to life shows consistent brilliance. I can say without a glimmer of doubt, that there isn’t a song on this album that I don’t love; it is a perfect pop album. Will Young has gone from someone that I was meagerly interested in to one of my favorite artists that I will now follow with unfettered attention; as he grows, he has proven that his music will continue to grow with him, and if his last two albums are any indication, this is one of pop music’s new people to watch out for. Will seriously has the ability and skill to place himself amongst his older peers, like George Michael, if he keeps this game going as well as he has to date.

Impressive as it is, I am still disappointed that this album will probably never see an American release. It is sad that pop music that is this brilliant is being produced across the pond, and we are forced to take to the internet to find out about it; especially considering the utter shit that is forced down our throats by American radio each day. I would gladly give up most of the crap out there for a few more minutes with Mr. Young, who confidently sings song after song, bringing the sexiness and swagger of a seasoned professional through in each track. Since I cannot do anything about his album being released here in the States, I will do what I CAN do; I will shout about the brilliance of Let It Gofrom the rooftops, and continue to tell anyone that will listen how completely amazing, beautiful, well produced, and down right fantastic Will Young, and this his fourth album, is. The only reason that this isn’t my album of the year, is because the one that edged it out holds a little more of my love; for me, this album is truly perfect in every way, and I am pleased that Will is continuing to make music that is both this impressive, and has this level of consistent quality. I will conclude by saying how refreshing I find it that Will is also an out musician, and he doesn’t sugar coat it; these love songs are definitely about a man, and are sung to him. I love that he wears his heart on his sleeve, and that you know it has the potential to belong to an actual partner; rather than a fictitious character created to hide his orientation. It is all of these reasons together that make me swoon heavy for Will Young, and with Let It Gohe has only made it incredibly harder to resist him!

Sparkle Factor:
Stand Outs:
If Love Equals Nothing [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/willyoung-ifloveequalsnothing.mp3]
Let It Go [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/fsf_103_willyoung-letitgo.mp3]
Grace, Changes, Tell Me The Worst, Simple Philosophy, You Don’t Know, Are You Happy.

the 31 best of 2008 – 3: Lady GaGa – The Fame

This should honestly be no surprise for most of the readers of this blog. It is no secret that Lady GaGa took me by storm this year, and the fact that she is FINALLY blowing up is a great indicator of just how amazing she is. Before the summer had even started, I heard the MASSIVE track, Just Dance, and it was at that moment that I knew that I wanted to know everything about Lady GaGa, because she was clearly the fiercest thing I had heard or seen in a very long time. Well, Just Dance was such an earworm, that I went on to declare it my song of the summer, and rightly so; I couldn’t get enough of the track. This led to a build up of extreme anticipation for more GaGa, which should have been met with elation upon the late July release of her debut, The Fame.Buzz started to swirl about GaGa on the internet, and snippets of amazing track after amazing track began to surface; all of which added to my extreme anticipation for this potentially fantastic album. Well, something went awry, because her record release date was bumped by a few MONTHS, and it was then that I was just met with more and more frustration; apparently, the record company gods did not want me to get my GaGa fix as planned.

In this day and age, that proved to be a fatal mistake; once the record hit shelves in Canada, the album leaked onto the internet, and it was everywhere overnight. They should have released it everywhere at the same time, which would have probably helped album sales, but once again, the record companies have proven that they don’t know what they are doing. Regardless of record company politics, I couldn’t resist, so I downloaded the album, and let me tell you, that it was everything that I could have hoped for and then some. Led by the amazing pop party anthem Just Dance, The Fame contains some of the freshest, most innovative pop music of 2008. It is clear that Lady GaGa is a powerhouse when it comes to song writing and when she teamed her efforts with Red One, the result was some amazing pop music. For the better part of this year, Lady GaGa has been the one that I could not say enough about; and when I FINALLY got my hands on her debut, The Fame,I knew that all of my anticipation and hype was very well placed. Ladies and gentlemen, Lady GaGa is the real deal; a new member of royalty has been born in the family of pop.

It is almost funny, though, that it has taken this long for people to finally sit up and take note of this pop diva; her massive first single Just Dance has only just recently found its way to the top of the charts. While it was annoying to see so many ignoring this amazing album, I am glad that people are finally catching on to what is clearly the next biggest thing to happen to pop music (seeing her on TV last night for New Years really made me smile!). Seeing her perform live, only further increased my love and adoration of her music and her talent. She has proven with her album and her continued act of pure disco fueled rock glam that she has the talent and the drive to bring the best pop music possible to the table; and with The Fame,she has done just that.

Lady GaGa has an uncanny ability to write a hook that is so sharp and so crisp that it will get inside you like nothing else, and it will not let go until you are dancing about. The only misstep on this album, for me, is the inclusion of the complete filler track, Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say), which isn’t at all what I consider bad, but is completely overshadowed by the innovative, in-your-face brilliance of every other track. Also, it really deserves noting, that given the aforementioned issues with her record release date(s), Lady GaGa has proven that she has a few tricks of her own up her sleeve to keep it fresh, and to keep herself from succumbing to record company politics; she managed to release her album with additional tracks in almost every market, and each one only added to the brilliance the album already showcased (Starstruck is one of the best songs on the album). Without any duds (even Eh Eh is catchy and by all standards, a very good track), this album soars above many of the other pop records that were released this year, and if her recent surge in popularity is any indication (Grammy Nod!), it looks like 2009 might be a very, very good year for Lady GaGa; hopefully, better than 2008 was.

Sparkle Factor:
Standouts: Poker Face [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/ladygaga-pokerface.mp3]
Just Dance, Starstruck, The Fame, Love Game, Boys Boys Boys, Brown Eyes, Money Honey.

the top three

This is where you would be reading about my top three CDs of 2008 right now, if I hadn’t procrastinated like a pro, and put off writing these entries one a day like I was planning. So… you will just have to wait until tomorrow to find out my three favorite CDs of 2008. I hope that you will be able to make it, because I feel bad enough for not being able to get in “under the wire”; seriously, don’t pummel me with tomatoes or shout too fervently at me, I know I let you down.

Now, I’m off to imbibe some cocktails with friends, and celebrate the one minute of the year where everyone seems far too focused on! Happy New Years everyone, and rest assured, I promise to deliver the goods tomorrow!

the 31 best of 2008 – 4: Adele – 19

For some reason, everyone has been going crazy over Duffy this year; who is just continuing that foray into the “sounds of the past” that really hit the mainstream last year with Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black.I feel compelled to mention this, because for me, Adele so far outshines Duffy at playing the same game, that it really makes me wonder where all the Adele love is hiding (well, the Grammys took notice, so I am not THAT bitter). From the first time I heard Hometown Glory back in January, I knew that I had to get my hands on everything that this AMAZING singer was going to release; her vocals are massive and so sweetly beautiful. She really harnesses the classic style that her predecessors like Billie Holiday and Etta James perfectly presented so many years ago. With her music, and amazing vocals, it’s almost as if Adele has the ability to transport you back in time to a bluesy cafe in the 60s, where she performs amazing song after amazing song for the patrons.

This was probably the album that I anticipated the most this year, because I found out about her a while before I could get my hands on any of her amazing music, and I it really created an insatiable hunger for Adele. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long to get the goods; Adele’s amazing debut album, titled simply 19(which was her age at the time of release) was released in the UK, and then finally in the US in the first few months of 2008. It really only took one listen to know that this CD would be perched near the top of my list; and look, here it is. She has made an album that is filled with heartbreaking tales about love and loss, and even though she sings from a place of youth, she really has a way with turning phrase to really hammer home her point. When she sings lines like “whenever you look at me I wish I was her” and “as you tear your way right through me/I forgive you once again/without me knowing/you’ve burnt my heart to stone” you really get the sense that the talent in Adele is not solely focused in her voice. She has made an epic debut, and it really blew me away this year. I will say, that I can not get enough of Adele, and I look forward to seeing her live early in 2009 when she comes to Atlanta.

Seriously, if four Grammy nominations aren’t enough of an indication at the level of talent in this amazing artist, take it from me, Adele is the real deal. She has the voice, the music, the lyrics; she has it all. The way that she uses her voice like an instrument is completely mesmerizing, and totally beautiful. The inclusion of her cover of Bob Dylan’s To Make You Feel My Love (a personal favorite of mine) also shows her ability to take something classic and put her own beautiful spin on it. Adele has made one of my favorite records of 2008 with 19,and I am just glad that she is starting to get some more well deserved attention.

Sparkle Factor:
Stand Outs: Hometown Glory [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/fsf_14_adele-hometown.mp3]
Chasing Pavements, To Make You Feel My Love, Cold Shoulder, Daydreamer, Melt My Heart To Stone, First Love.

the 31 best of 2008 – 5: Uh Huh Her – Common Reaction

Sometimes, all it takes is a MASSIVE lead off single to gain major interest in your album. This is definitely the case with Uh Huh Her’s first full length release, Common Reaction. Late this summer, I heard one of the catchiest, most amazing pop rock songs of the year, Not A Love Song, and because of that track, I instantly pre-ordered Common Reaction(this is not something that I normally do). I couldn’t believe how much I liked the song, and I couldn’t stop myself from playing it on repeat. Well, a few weeks went by, and the album (which was pre-ordered at that point; which was a great idea, because I got it before it was released AND it is autographed) was highlighted on Logo, who allowed you to listen to the whole album before it was released. I definitely enjoyed it with the first listen, but one of the paramount features of this album for me, is that it is definitely a grower; somehow, it gets better each time I listen to it. It is electro-pop-rock brilliance, which features sweet female, electro-distorted beats, beautiful rhythms, and a lyrical journey to the land of heartbreak, relationships, and sex.

This is definitely one of THE most underrated albums of the year for me; this album should be blowing up. Seriously, every song on Common Reactionwould fit perfectly amongst today’s electro-pop musical landscape, and that fact that it isn’t everywhere is just confusing. Perhaps people just haven’t heard it yet? Well then, let me be the one to tell you: This fantastic album is filled with airy, and very, very well produced pop rock tracks that are magnified by the beautiful vocal styling of Leisha Hailey and Camilla Grey. Their voices meld so well together, and really rein in the ethereal nature of their music, complimenting it in a haunting, and beautiful way.

I think that some of my excitement about Uh Huh Her as a band, initially, was because of how much I adore Leisha Hailey (from the L Word); but it is their music that deserves the real spotlight here. This album is not the type of record that one would expect as a debut album; this is a well produced record that a veteran band of many, many years would put out. Perhaps it is their previous musical experience (they’ve both been in several bands) that speaks here, because they are clearly veterans at making amazing music, and together, they have made something truly epic. There aren’t any other electro-pop albums that I heard like this one this year, and while it is definitely current, there are several moments that they embody the perfect and polished 80s girl pop rock band. I loved this album from the start (well, BEFORE the start), and it still makes me dance around and fills my ears with its sweet sounds upon each listen. I just wish that elation, excitement, and heaping praise were more common reactions to this album, because it definitely deserves to be a much bigger album than it currently is.

Sparkle Factor:
Stand Outs: Not A Love Song [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/fsf_718_uhhuhher-notalovesong.mp3]
Dreamer, Wait Another Day, Explode, Dance With Me, Covered, Common Reaction.

the 31 best of 2008 – 6: Kings of Leon – Only By The Night

Talk about “taking me by storm”! I had never heard of Kings of Leon before this autumn, and while on vacation, I randomly saw them on Saturday Night Live. I was intrigued by their sound, and when I got back home, I decided to check them out. At the time, they had the number one single on the UK charts with Sex On Fire, and I figured that they were definitely worth downloading. After I downloaded Only by the Night,I was not expecting to get something so impressive and amazingly produced as I did. This album is raw, distorted, powerful, pure rock and roll, and each song becomes an anthem with the amazing vocals of lead singer, Caleb Followill. I’m not joking when I say that hearing his voice makes me a bit weak in the knees, and he isn’t too shabby looking either; I bet he gets laid a LOT. Seriously, that voice is emotive, fragile, tender, amazing, beautiful; I could go on and on about how much I love his voice, and the amazing music that accompanies it, which definitely made this one of my favorite albums of 2008.

The infectious single, Sex On Fire is, well, sexy, and a great almost “classic” rock and roll anthem. While it may not be making as big of a splash here in the States (well, they did get nominated for a few Grammys), Only by the Nighthas been pretty big over in the UK, and as we speak, the BEST song off of the album, Use Somebody, is making big waves across the pond. Let me just say that Use Somebody is one of the best songs that I have heard in the last 5 years; it is pure emotion harnessed into a rock song. When I hear that song, I FEEL it. As with these two stand outs, the rest of the album is an impressive rock and roll album that really took me by surprise this year. I almost didn’t want to like it as much as I do, because I had never heard of Kings of Leon before August; but this album is far too amazing to allow me to be so foolish. This is definitely one of my biggest, and best surprises this year; this album literally gets better with each and every listen. I love when I find something so wonderful and it completely takes me by storm. I will say, that not seeing Kings of Leon in concert was a huge regret of mine this year, and I will do everything I can to rectify that in 2009.

The subtleties and nuances of each song on this album make it stand out amongst the other releases I hear this year. It is almost like they are performing it for you when you listen to the record; you can here the far off sounds and the intricacies that went into crafting each song into an experience. Again, Caleb’s voice really is like a 50lb cherry on the top of the cake; I haven’t heard many voices like his, and it is so entrancing, that it really pulled me into their music more than I was expecting. I will end by saying that I think it is really cool that the band is made up of 3 brothers and a cousin; this family affair has made an amazing rock and roll album, which I am really, really glad that it captured my attention this year.

Sparkle Factor:
Stand Outs: Use Somebody [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/fsf_926_kingsofleon-usesomebody.mp3]
Sex on Fire, Closer, Manhattan, I Want You, Crawl, Revelry, Notion.

the 31 best of 2008 – 7: Hayden – In Field & Town

Let me start this review off by talking about one of the best concerts I saw this year. The show was the amazing Feist, who managed to captivate me in 2007, and ended up at the number 2 spot on my countdown last year. As much as I was beaming with glee at seeing Feist, I was excited for the concert for another reason; Hayden was opening, and I hadn’t heard anything from him since high school, when I first fell in love with his song Bad As They Seem. Well, Hayden played a bunch of stuff off of his new album In Field & Town(which I snagged before the concert to get reacquainted with him), and he was down right amazing in concert. As I mentioned, I first heard about him in high school, but I hadn’t really followed him; mostly because he’s a Canadian artist, and much of his work is difficult to get commercially here in the states. Well, I’m glad that this album was more readily available, because it was a huge surprise to me, and his album of aching love songs ended up in my top ten for the year because of how amazing it is. It seems that time has been good to Hayden.

This album is very down tempo and completely heartfelt. His tender voice wraps itself around each track, which he sings with a sense of reservation to accompany the amazing orchestrations. Hayden reminds me of Bob Dylan with his masterful story-telling and smoky voice, as well as Aqualung, who actually made my top ten last year, with his tenderness and emotive use of the music to paint a gentle picture that might hang inside his heart. His mastery of the piano, horns, tender snare, and his use of surprises like the xylophone come together to make a folk-pop album that doesn’t have a sore track on it. This album is so well crafted, that it cannot be ignored. I am just elated that Hayden opened for Feist, so that I could be reacquainted with this amazing artist from our northern neighbor.

Overall, this record captured my attention a lot this year because of just how damn good it is. If you like folk-pop, then you will LOVE Hayden. Hayden’s singing voice is quiet and weathered, and he uses it to caress the words of each song in a way that really makes its meaning that much more sincere. It seems that Hayden has been making great music for quite a while now, and I will be the first to say that I am glad that he is back on my radar; In Field & Townis an understated, beautifully produced album that I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this year. The track that I chose to highlight is one of the best songs that I heard all year, the AMAZING The Hardest Part; which really just hits me, and all I can say about it is wow.

Sparkle Factor:
Stand Outs: The Hardest Part [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/fsf_425_hayden-thehardestpart.mp3]
Weight Of the World, More Than Alive, Worthy of Your Esteem, Barely Friends, Lonely Security Guard.

the 31 best of 2008 – 8: Leslie Hall – Cewebrity

I know that this is probably going to alienate some of you, but hear me out; this album is magnificent and down right brilliant. I am sure that some of you will hate on Leslie, but that is probably because you are taking yourself far too seriously; Leslie Hall, aka Mother Gem, is a force of nature that has gyrated her way into my soul. Leslie is a whole new world of musical and comedic entertainment. I was lucky enough to see her amazing live performance earlier this year, and that is when I became a life long fan. She’s a lady rapper, clad in glitter and gem sweaters, and to use her own words, she’s doing her thing and “pounding out the sexy with a sparkly hammer”. Leslie is probably best known for her Gem Sweater Museum and her status as an internet celebrity (hence the name of her third album being titled Cewebrity),but all joking aside, she has actually produced an album that is filled with fresh beats, and slick rhymes; all of which she weaves into a web of glamor for your senses.

Now, I want to say this, so listen to me; this entire record is meant to be satirical. It is meant to be funny, and it not only succeeds, it mystifies you with hilarious tales told in the way that only Leslie can tell them. However, even though it is funny, and down right silly at times, Cewebritysucceeds in being a light hearted pop record that is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. I will admit that the first time I heard a Leslie Hall song, that I didn’t instantly get it, and as such, I was more confused than anything (I wondered if she was serious!). Yet, after seeing her perform, I was instantly mesmerized by the gyrations of her gold spandex covered hips, and by the ninja-like prowess she exerted with her scissor kicks. Leslie Hall doesn’t just perform, she puts on a fucking SHOW, and the music is like the icing on the cake; sweet, fun, delicious, and begging to be devoured. The more I listen to Leslie Hall’s purely guilty pleasure-rific music, the more I love this Midwest diva; she makes me laugh, and does so through great music.

Overall, I will definitely say, that Cewebrityhas been one of my favorite albums of this entire year, and there was no way that I wasn’t going to include it on this countdown (regardless of the critique I am sure to get for doing so). For sheer entertainment value, it deserves this spot so very, very much, and I am just pleased that I was exposed to the craft of Leslie Hall this year. It was definitely one of the best concerts I have ever seen, and the music is something that keeps me laughing, dancing, and wanting more. Leslie Hall is a goddess of jams and gems, and if Cewebrityis any indication of what we have to expect from Leslie in the future, the I can definitely see the sheen of gold spandex in my future.

Sparkle Factor:
Stand Outs: Test Ten Guys [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/lesliehall-testtenguys.mp3]
How We Go Out, Zombie Killer, Blame the Booty, Keep It Real, Real Gold and Glamorous, Drop a Gem.

the 31 best of 2008 – 9: Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

Given the fact that it was a little less than three years ago since the last amazing Death Cab For Cutie album was released, news of a new Death Cab earlier this year was literally music to my ears. Death Cab For Cutie is amongst my favorite bands, because they have this amazing musical style that completely captures my attention and emotional state. I can listen to Death Cab For Cutie and literally feel better, as if a warm blanket has been draped over my cold shoulders. Couple that with the fact that the voice of Ben Gibbard is that of the ones that angels use to sing, and the nerd-loving, heart-focused romantic in me longs for him to bat his eye lashes behind those thick rimmed glasses, and sing sweet love songs directly to me.

With extreme anticipation, I started to hear news about this highly anticipated album, and most of it was mixed; a lot of people were talking about how Death Cab had departed from their sound dramatically, and that Narrow Stairsalmost didn’t even sound like a Death Cab record. This caused some concern, because unlike some fans, I thought their major label debut was an amazing growth in their sound, and was a truly fantastic work of music. Additionally, after finding out that the first single from the album, I Will Possess Your Heart, clocked in at no less than 8:35, I was beginning to worry if one of my favorite bands of all time would continue to be on that list after I heard their new “direction”. Well, after actually hearing I Will Possess your Heart, I was no longer worried; it is brilliant. The use of the extra time in the intro really hammers home the point of the song, and once again, Ben Gibbard has truly mastered the art of song writing and song production (sometimes, repetition really exasperates desperation and longing, as it does in this case). However, the buck doesn’t stop there, every song on Narrow Stairs takes Death Cab For Cutie in a slightly different musical direction (a little heavier and slightly more raw; which is indicative of them recording the album as a band, live, which I must say is awesome), but the Death Cab I have come to love is definitely still in there, living and breathing, as healthy as ever.

The hallmark rock and roll riffs coupled with the sweet and longing (often heartbroken) vocals, of Ben Gibbard make me swoon, but with a sense of sadness, as I poured over each tale of heartbreak song on this album. Narrow Stairsreally hammers home what I came to love about Death Cab For Cutie in the first place; listening to it further highlights the fact that there really aren’t a lot bands out there that are this incredibly talented and that are making music this heartfelt and truly beautiful. While I will say that this album is definitely, for me, a little more like a journey down a road of heartbreak and sadness; on a road that sits somewhere between the previous records Plansand Transatlanticism(a little less smitten than Plans,and more raw, in the direction of Transatlanticism), There is an ache in this album that really makes you believe that Gibbard has gone through some serious shit, and his way of twisting that knife once it is in your heart is just amazing. It’s no guessing by now that I am totally smitten with Death Cab For Cutie, as well as Mr. Ben Gibbard himself, and this album completely satisfied me in every way. I just hope that it isn’t close to three more years before we hear from these fellas again, I just can’t get enough of their sweet, sweet music; even if the subject matter tries to bring a tear to my eye.

Sparkle Factor:
Stand Outs: Grapevine Fires [audio:http://www.duanemoody.com/audio/fsf_516_deathcabforcutie-grapevinefires.mp3]
Cath…, You Can Do Better Than Me, The Ice Is Getting Thinner, Bixby Canyon Bridge, Your New Twin Sized Bed, I Will Possess Your Heart.