Updated: Jun 26, 2022
Washington's Death Cab for Cutie's fifth and most commercially lauded album Plans takes on a sharp, more polished indie sound following their critically acclaimed 2003 album Transatlanticism. Their 2005 Grammy nominated album showcased a handful of tracks which absolutely stood the test of time, with I'll Follow You Into the Dark taking the forefront. Memorable tracks, along with a couple strong deep cuts kept Death Cab one of the more popular bands of the genre, especially in the US as this seems to be their one album which has really lived on for years and years.
Although its predecessor received almost universal acclaim, and is considered by some to be their masterpiece, Plans seems to have the songs listeners keep coming back to and for those who may not consider themselves Death Cab fans, these are the ones they remember. Polished and commercially successful singles Crooked Teeth and Soul Meets Body have a certain aesthetic and feel to them showing they are more than just the songs to the get the album sales. Soul Meets Body has some fantastic and melodic chord changes following a superb chorus of Ben Gibbard's scatting which any indie kid sang along too in bedrooms filled with Arcade Fire and Pavement posters. Pair that with the wide vocal range of Gibbard and you get a timeless alternative rock number. Crooked Teeth features some of Death Cab's best guitars and arguably their most memorable chorus which has pulled listeners in to taking a deep dive into their discography.
You can just tell from a quick listen these tracks were recorded again, and again until they got that specific sound Gibbard and guitarist/producer Chris Walla sought after. Someday You Will Be Loved seems to be the one track on the album that slipped through the cracks, and it's a real surprise it was even included on the album when without it, they still would have had a solid 41 minutes of music. A solid skeleton of a song for sure, but vastly underdeveloped and lacking momentum. With drums sounding as if they are playing a different song and a lack of direction, the song is almost worth a skip. Stable Song seems to go nowhere and not offer much of interest to the listener either. A very peculiar track to choose to end such a good record. Regardless, tracks such as Brother's on a Hotel Bed (which probably should have been the closing track) make up for the more underdeveloped songs with it's somber lyrics, and delicate keyboard playing, a real song that can stop you in your tracks. Give those lyrics a read, somber, but alluring poetry. What Sarah Said, and Summer Skin have a more traditional Death Cab sound, a real treat for longtime fans, and feature some satisfying and skillful instrumentation by the crew behind Gibbard and his tasteful yet emo-ish lyrics.
An album, indie rock fans keep finding themselves coming back to again and again. Although it is a noticeable tier below some of the great records of the decade, I would say this album ought to earn its place somewhere in the top 100 indie records of the decade, maybe just not too close to the top. Plans is worth the listen every time and when you look at their catalogue as a whole, this is them at their best.