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Narrow Stairs

4.1 out of 5 stars 157 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 13, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description


Narrow Stairs might be the first album recorded by Death Cab for Cutie since Ben Gibbard's former solo project went unexpectedly stratospheric, but Gibbard hasn't let it go to his head. Oh, OK, maybe a little: lead-off single "I Will Possess Your Heart" is an eight minute jam that speeds off on one long, luminous curve before Gibbard's distinctive vocals swing in, sweet and plaintive as ever. Even when indulging their grander visions, though, Death Cab for Cutie are still familiar as the same band that wrote those fragile, winsome songs back before teen drama The OC came knocking. Never knowingly overstated, built from driving rhythms, flourishes of piano and intricate melodies, Narrow Stairs builds grand, emotionally loaded narratives from small, subtle parts. "Your New Twin Sized Bed" hides a deftly articulated tale of heartbreak and loneliness amidst soothing tangles of guitar, while "You Can Do Better than Me" is a sweet miniature that's part Pet Sounds orchestration, part wistful Dear John. This isn't, as Gibbard would previously hint, a dissonant or especially adventurous album. It proves, however, that Death Cab can extend their scope without diluting the pathos or energy of their music, and it not only sounds great, but bodes well for the future. --Louis Pattison

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Bixby Canyon Bridge
  2. I Will Possess Your Heart
  3. No Sunlight
  4. Cath...
  5. Talking Bird
  6. You Can Do Better Than Me
  7. Grapevine Fires
  8. Your New Twin Sized Bed
  9. Long Division
  10. Pity And Fear
  11. The Ice Is Getting Thinner

Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 13, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Atlantic
  • ASIN: B0017I1RH4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,832 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
When Death Cab for Cutie signed to Atlantic Records a few years back, many people expected the worse. In the indie music world, where signing to a major record label is often met with cries of "selling out" and steadfast declarations of "their old stuff was better," Death Cab's transition was proof that a major record deal doesn't alway signal the end of a band's better days. Plans wound up being a beautiful album; not near as exciting or breathtaking as its predecessor, but still drenched in Ben Gibbard's unparalleled lyricism and Chris Walla's flawless production. It was an album that found the band's rough edges smoothed out - their more hopeful moments set aside to make way for those of self-doubt and longing.

Narrow Stairs takes the opposite approach. Walla is once again behind the production, but the album has a much more natural quality to it (a feature that not only contrasts Plans, but Walla's own solo album and his work with The Decemberists and Tegan and Sara). As such, it feels more like the band's earlier work: unrestrained and unrefined, free of nit-picking and studio perfectionism. The raw, guitar distortion of album-opener, "Bixby Canyon Bridge," would never exist on an album like Plans, and it's refreshing to hear the band breaking free from the self-imposed restrictions of their previous record.

Likewise, the album's first single "I Will Possess Your Heart" is well over 8 minutes long, something that I can't imagine Atlantic Records smiling on, especially being a single.
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Format: Audio CD
After their big-label debut "Plans" in 2005, DCFC took to the streets and toured relentessly. This in turn lead to a longer than usual period in between new studio recording. Now, 3 years later, comes the much anticipated 6th studio albums from these guys.

"Narrow Stairs" (11 tracks, 45 min.) starts off with the best 1-2 punch ever: an epic opener "Bigxby Canyon Bridge", followed by an even stronger 8+ min. brooding "I Will Posess Your Heart" (1st radio single). Wow... these 15 min. of music alone are worth buying the album for. Smartly Ben Gibbard and the guys take a (musically) lighter turn after that, with tracks like "No Sunlight", "Your New Twin Sized Bed" and "You Can Do Better Than Me" (even though neither of them is a 'light' song lyrically...). Other highlights for me include "Grapevine Fires" (with great underlying keyboards) and the somber closer "The Ice Is Getting Thinner". But honestly, there isn't a single weak track as such on here. The songs are sequenced perfectly and it all flows from one to the next. Chris Walla's production is perfectly in tune with Ben Gibbard's slightly darker than usual songs. A terrific album all around (and right up there with 2003's "Transatlanticism", in my opinion).

I had seen DCFC in concert before, but when I saw them at Coachella in late April, the entire band played with a vigor and passion I hadn't seen before. They played quite a few of the new songs (including "I Will Possess Your Heart", which I'm guessing is Nick's (the bass player) favorite new song, but also "Grapevine Fires"), and also bringing a couple of classics such as "Sound of Settling". In all DCFC's set was one of the more memorable of the entire Coachella festival for me. Can't wait to see them again in concert. Meanwhile "Narrow Stairs" is highly recommended!
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Format: Audio CD
After the first time thru I would have rated this album just three stars, but it's kinda growing on me. I like the apt and easy song lyrics. I like various small and subtle production elements, such as the way the lead guitar moves in and around the vocals, sometimes joining, on tunes like "Pity and Fear." And there are various other things on Stairs I appreciate. There's no magnificent tragedy on the new CD to rival "Transatlanticism," but then what ever could? Stairs does have the similarly epic (and slow-building) "I Will Possess Your Heart," but it's quietly optimistic where "Trans..." is all heartbreak and sorrow. For those who felt let down after their first listen, give the disc another try and see what you think. Oh, and by the way, the CD booklet is another minor but cool work of art, something the download-only folks will miss I guess.
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Format: Audio CD
I would like to start out by saying this isn't DCfC's best album, but it is a great addition. Transatlanticism is still their best album, but that's probably not going to change since it's just a great masterpiece. The move to Atlantic records has not made any change for their creative abilities. As many know, Chris Walla (the band's lead guitarist) still produced this album. They have succeeded in creating an album that is different than their others, but still holds their style. Any fan of DCfC should be impressed.

The album starts off with the song Bixby Canyon Bridge. It starts out with the feel of their music from Plans, but around 1:40 there is a change to distorted guitar. I was a little nervous at first, but it was actually a good change for them.

I will Possess Your Heart: I'm sure many people have already heard this song. It is one of my favorites from DCfC. They have a 4:20 buildup without any vocals. There is no doubt of the beauty in this. The rest of the song Ben sings about pretty much being a stalker and if a woman would give him a chance she would love him. Absolutely stunning!

No Sunlight: This song reminds me of The Sound of Settling. It is upbeat and energetic. This one is just a fun song to listen to.

You Can Do Better Than Me: This song is only 2 minutes long, but it their best musical experiment. It starts out with what sounds like a timpani (could be wrong, please forgive me) with a tambourine. No ladies and gentlemen, this is not a Christmas song and it sounds good!

Grapevine Fires: With singing words in front there are some hums in the background. This is my second favorite song on the album. Again, something new for DCfC.
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Save your Money
Worse than Kenny G? Worse than the recent Bon Jovi? Please get your hyperbole in check. While I don't think they're the best thing since sliced bread, there are a multitude of albums that have been put out in the past 5 years that are way way worse.
May 8, 2008 by Evan |  See all 19 posts
Mainstream?Scared Of Change?
I don't consider Plans or Transatlanticism as blatant attempts by DCFC to sound more mainstream. Did they open the band to a wider audience? Sure, but in my opinion this was due to the fact that the quality of the music had improved in terms of sound and melody. The older stuff was... Read More
Oct 15, 2008 by Art |  See all 4 posts
Downbeat, Repetitive & Drony
I guess Im listening to a different album or something b/c this is one of their most UN-downbeat albums in recent years
May 27, 2008 by Johnny Utah |  See all 5 posts
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