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Death Cab for Cutie 

Transatlanticism (Barsuk)

Rock songs tend to fall into one of two broad categories: the emotional and the ones about emotion. But Death Cab for Cutie songwriter Ben Gibbard and his band straddle the two: On songs such as the title track of Death Cab's new album Transatlanticism, Gibbard's reedy tenor expresses both a very direct yearning and a nakedly autobiographical balladeering.

Yet Gibbard's singing and the music backing him up give his songs the quality of feelings observed from a slight remove. Maybe it's the prettiness and stately pacing of Death Cab's songs that leave emotions sitting on the skin, though rockier tracks do hit a bit harder. And the looped beats, unnerving production crackle, and weird synth theme running through "Title of Registration" give the song a genuinely unsettling atmosphere that nicely underscores Gibbard's typically frail tone. But for the most part, although Transatlanticism improves on Gibbard's melodics and the band's dreamy arrangements, the record is of a piece with the rest of the Death Cab catalog: good, sure, but safe.

More by Maya Singer

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