Death Cab for Cutie did not write an album between The Photo Album and Transatlanticism that spanned the gap between the dreamy, distorted qualities of the former and the humble, direct pop of the latter. They just pretty much abandoned one for the other. It’s not an issue any more, though; Papermoons’ New Tales fills the gap with eerie precision.
Matt Clark’s voice is exactly the same as Ben Gibbard’s in pitch, tone, and inflection. His songs fluctuate between fuzzed-out indie bliss and knocked-out indie sadness, much in the DCFC way. I am not kidding or exaggerating: this sounds like a lost Death Cab record.
And I think it’s awesome. There are people who will hate it because of that, but I am glad this record exists.
“Bad Notes” features a calmly picked acoustic guitar, far-off harmonica, high-pitched pad synths and hushed vocals for an incredibly intimate listening experience. The lazy stops and starts of “Holy Cow” make me feel as if I’ve stumbled into Clark’s bedroom after he just woke up. “Car Lights” slows it down even farther, making each chord into a gift. It’s gorgeous. There’s no other real term for it.
The ten songs of New Tales are completely and totally devoid of bravado, irony, posturing, anger, grittiness, psychedelic tendencies, or noise. They are full of lush orchestrations, honest performances, beautiful melodies and a sense of wonder. This album doesn’t break new ground, but it does claim the ground it’s on for its own. Whether or not you’re excited about these particular claimgrabbers depends on your feelings toward Death Cab. I like it a lot.