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The Photo Album

4.2 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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The Photo Album
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Audio CD, October 9, 2001
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Death Cab for Cutie turn difficult personal issues into literary rock songs while straddling the narrow line between blissful pop and driving indie rock. The Northwest act's songs soar high like Built to Spill's or Beulah's, and almost every track on The Photo Album is as musically bouncy and upbeat as the best of those bands. As catchy as the songs on The Photo Album may be, though, it's really front man Benjamin Gibbard's comfort with laying his emotional issues bare that makes this an excellent album. "Styrofoam Plates" is the most stunning track, with words that leave chills long after they've disappeared. As Gibbard sings about anger for a dead father ("It's not quite a stretch to say you were not quite a father / But a donor of seeds to a poor single mother / That would raise us alone / We never saw the money / It went down your throat down the hole in your belly"), his stark honesty makes this dysfunctional family story the most compelling piece of this album. The other issues of clumsy relationships pale a little in comparison, but The Photo Album still leaves little doubt that Death Cab deserve all the indie rock accolades they have received. --Jennifer Maerz
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 9, 2001)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Barsuk
  • ASIN: B00005ORA5
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,617 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
My first introduction to DCFC was a live show, perhaps the best showcase for their pretty-but-angry sound. In the recording studio, the spare instrumentation sounds like more than the sum of its parts, and Ben Gibbard's arpeggiated vocal lines are almost soothing. DCFC makes beautiful, heartbreaking music, but the current of anger and bitterness runs close beneath the surface.
"Styrofoam Plates" finds company with rage-against-the-father anthems like the Cherry Poppin' Daddies "Drunk Daddy" and Tool's "Prisonsex", unflinching in its portrayal of a betrayed child's emotions, while managing to avoid self-indulgence.
If DCFC are destined to have a breakthrough hit, I believe it will be "A Movie Script Ending" - a haunting, relentless anthem about long distance relationships and hours on the road. But there are other, more imaginative tracks on the album that deserve attention. "Information Travels Faster" is smart and catchy, and "Why You'd Want to Live Here" features some of the best drumming and risky syncopation I've heard in recent popular music. "Blacking Out the Friction" isn't afraid to change-up the rhythm in support of the message in the lyrics, showing off the natural rhythm of frontman Ben Gibbard's poetry - and it is poetry, much more so than just rhyming lyrics squashed within the time signature.
In fact, the drums are one of the biggest reasons to check out DCFC. Rather than being relegated to timekeeping, they take center stage as an instrument on this album, which might be confusing at first. A repetitive guitar line undulates during the instrumental interlude in "Styrofoam Plates," but the drums are playing their own melody line.
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Format: Audio CD
When it comes to Death Cab, I think many people overlook The Photo Album due to the success of Transatlanticism and the recent release of Plans, and that's sad. I enjoy Photo Album soo much more than I enjoy Plans. If you can't somehow find some form of solitude or bliss from "We Laugh Indoors," then I think something's wrong. The song vaguely reminds me of "We Looked Like Giants," and that's a good thing. Check out "Styrofoam Plates," "Coney Island" and "Movie Script Ending" as well. These are easily some of my favorite Death Cab tunes.

I always liked DCfC's raw, more indie-sound anyway.
1 Comment 11 of 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By A Customer on October 24, 2001
Format: Audio CD
It's good to see that these guys have yet to hit a slump. Most bands begin to falter around the third album, running out of good lyrics and have lost the feeling that the they want to be in a band to play good music and not there to just sell records (you know who I'm talking about Everclear, Offspring, Blink 182 . . .). Even after writing two great albums, Ben Gibbard stills finds very emotional and engaging topics to write about.
I went to a DCFC show in Portland for the Photo Album tour. I had only owned "We have the facts..." but wanted to check out if the new album would really be as good before purchasing. Not only did I buy "The Photo Album," but I had to bum my friend's last buck to get "Something About Airplanes" as well. Neither purchase was a waste of money.
Outstanding songs on the album include, but are not limited to:
#2 - A Movie Script Ending
#4 - Information Travels Faster
#5 - Why You's Want to Live Here - great tune to back up the lyrical images
#6 - Blacking Out the Friction
#8 - Styrofoam Plates - the best lyrics on the album
#9 - Coney Island
I have the tour edition of the CD that included 3 extra tracks. None of them could stand on there own, and it is not worth paying the extra bucks on eBay to get the tour edition. But the original 10 tracks are fantastic.
Probably a better starter album than "We have the facts..." because most of the tracks have a faster tempo and doesn't take as much devotion to really enjoy the record.
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Format: Audio CD
This is one of my favorite DCFC albums. There is something so mystifying and strong about Ben Gibbard's lyrics that hits you from chord one and does not let up until the last strain fades away. The quality of music in this album is up from previous efforts which takes away some of the old indie DCFC vibe, but allows lyrical beauty through. The softness of the melodies is striking in its simplicity. The music really is beautiful, but the lyrics are very real and emotional, especially those in the song, "Stryofoam plates" in which a dead beat dad's funeral is portrayed from the eyes of his tortured child.
Steadier Footing: the melancholy tone of this song sets the mood for the whole album. It is a great opening song, it is short, but the lyrics are simple and strong. It is melodically pleasing, as are all of the other songs on the album. The poignant lyrics that have marked Death Cab's style are seen right from the first line in this song.
A Movie Script ending: wonderfully crafted song--the rhythm of the guitar and the steady beat are really mesmerizing and stick into your head for hours, if not days at a time. It is mellow, soft, but possesses an irresistibly catchy quality.
We Laugh Indoors: this track has a heavier beat, and is more moody. The whispered lyrics are a wonderful contrast to the persistent beat of the drum in the background. About half way into the track, when Gibbard starts mutedly screaming, the emotions really seep forth from his pained lyrics. It is wonderful, but then the somber mood returns until the song ends.
Information travels faster: I love this track. The backing melody reminds me of Depeche Mode, but that could just be me and my obsession with 80s music. The piano adds a spectacular elements to an already great song.
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