Customer Reviews: Plans
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on January 25, 2006
Normally I try to avoid the hype machine that surrounds a band referenced or namechecked on "The OC" or some other blisteringly popular and annoying teen show. But something about the first single off Death Cab for Cutie's album "Plans" spoke to me in a way that nothing on the radio has in quite a while. So I picked up the album (keeping in mind that they were supposedly "Seth Cohen's favorite band" and not hold it against them). I can say I was pleasantly surprised.

I'm not going to pretend that I know the history of DCFC or their indie-rock roots. This is their major-label debut, and it's pleasantly against what you'd normally expect from a legendary cult band trying to achieve pop immortality on their very first major record. The album starts quietly, and ends quietly. In between, there are a lot of quiet songs.

A snoozefest, right? Not so.

The best tracks, besides "Soul Meets Body" are Summer Skin, I Will Follow You Into The Dark (an aching acoustic ballad that makes the listener weep), Crooked Teeth, What Sarah Said...really, the entire album lives up to the heady expectations that some will bring to it. It's not for everyone per se, but it has certainly had an effect on me.

Again, I'm new to the whole DCFC mythology and mythios. But I know great music when I hear it, and you can't do much better than "Plans". Nevermind the hype, this is the real deal.
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on November 13, 2006
Every talented, original, innovative band that achieves success over a number of years inevitably reaches the point where a significant part of its fan base accuses the band of "selling out." This usually occurs when one or more of the following happens:

-the band receives major label backing
-the band gets a new producer and/or access to state-of the art production facilities
-the band members make a great leap forward in terms of musicianship and/or songwriting
-the band achieves commercial success and/or critical acclaim

For Death Cab for Cutie, all of the above occurred with "Plans." Studio gloss has sanded off Death Cab's rough edges, their songs have become tighter and more ambitious, and they have achieved nearly household name status. So naturally, their diehard fans who stuck with them through the lo-fi indie years have accused them of selling out.

While some call it "selling out," I call it "getting better." I have heard, and quite like, Death Cab's earlier work, particularly "We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes" and "Transatlanticism." "Plans" does for Death Cab what "OK Computer" did for Radiohead: it marks their great leap from rock's best-kept secret to a band that's finally achieving the success they deserve through hard work and persistent innovation.

I began listening to "Plans" at the same time I was studying Baroque music at Rutgers. I was quite astonished at how classically constructed Death Cab's songs are. I won't elevate Ben Gibbard and company to Bach's level just yet, but many of their songs - particularly "Marching Bands of Manhattan" and "What Sarah Said" - exhibit the "motoric rhythm" found in Bach's concertos. These songs drive forward with active bass lines, articulate drumming and intertwining keyboard and guitar ostinatos. Also found in Death Cab's work are terraced dynamics - changes in volume level caused by instruments entering and exiting. A harmonic nod to early music is suggested by "Someday You Will Be Loved," with shifting dominant chord relationships found in Renaissance and Baroque dance music. I don't know if Death Cab for Cutie studied music history, but they have clearly evolved from songwriters into composers, and the result is extremely satisfying on a visceral level.

"Plans" is quite possibly the best rock album of 2005, and I believe its reputation will only grow with time. Death Cab diehards, don't begrudge the band's well-deserved success. Embrace it, and satisfy yourself with the knowledge that you recognized their greatness before the masses did.
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on August 30, 2005
If you liked "Give Up" then buy this album immediately. If you think the move towards a more produced sound is going to piss you off, give you more major label woes, you might want to look elsewhere. I don't know, pick up an old Neutral Milk Hotel album and gripe about how everyone is selling out. Me, though, I think this is their best album in a few years. They didn't lose any edge when they jumped onto the label, they just got a better studio for Chris Walla to work his magic. My recommendation? Buy the album. Then again, I just like music, and if I can hear it better, more crisp, more produced, and hence, a better listen? All the better. As long as Atlantic doesn't try to change the whole thing Death Cab has going for them in their sound, then they're still one of the best groups around.
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on February 4, 2006
Plans is probably the first time in a very long time that a band has been able to pull off another consistent, fine album after hopping to a mainstream label. We should all be thanking somebody for getting it right.

Two Things:

First -- Since the favorite topic of review here seems to be 'Plans vs. Transatlanticism', I will only say this, DCFC has done the right thing by writing an album that doesn't even attempt to follow in its footsteps -- and although it would have been nice to hear a little more heavier guitar work, its absence on this album is more fitting than audacious. I'm rather suprised that Atlantic didn't persuade these guys to delve deeper into the same pattern that eventually resulted in Trans., and it has definately worked out for the better.

Second -- "Sold Out" is clearly missing from DCFC's vocabulary. Not too long ago, all of us were [mostly] sickened and disheartened to see that they gained a little more attention from The OC...I can now say (being that it's been a considerable amount of time since they've made that appearance), that it didn't damage nor catapult their career. What's most appreciative is that they're also not riding on that mainstream exposure to the bank. All in all, DCFC is doing a pretty good job flying under the radar despite network TV references and album plugs.

So alright, with all that said, 'Plans' is both impressive and lacklustre, but there is a considerable balance between the two, and that is where we find the album to be more promising than deteriorating.

'Marching Bands of Manhattan', 'Soul Meets Body', 'Summer Skin', 'Different Names For The Same Thing', 'Brothers On A Hotel Bed' and 'Your Heart Is An Empty Room' embody a good chunk of what makes 'Plans' above average. If anything, I'm sure old and new fans alike will find something worth hearing.
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on February 26, 2006
Death Cab for Cutie's Plans is an important album in their career in two ways: the first being that it is their first album on a major label and its the first album they have released since Gibbard finished his work with his side project, The Postal Service. The first plus that this CD has to offer is that long time DCfC fans will not be disappointed, the record label changed but the music did not. The band is simply doing the same type of music that they did before, they have not sold out and gone commercial to appeal to the masses. The band produces solid, deep and mature music that washes over the listener over and over again. Gibbard's lyrics are as powerful as ever. His rhyming differs from the norm and the images he evokes are extremely powerful (my personal favorite being on the first cut where he wishes to open his mouth wide enough for a marching band to march out and call out the name of a far away loved one). The lyrics stand alone as poetry without the music, and the music justly complements the beautiful words Gibbard has written. As a follow up from the Postal Service, much of the musical writing relies far more on intricate interwoven textures than it does on swelling guitar chords. Sometimes the music even takes on the persona of Postal Service-esque electro-pop. The most song that has this element the strongest is "Soul Meets Body." It's quite interesting to hear a electronica inspired groove played on live instruments with a band. The best of many worlds have been incorporated with this album making another very strong release for Death Cab for Cutie.
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on May 21, 2015
I'm nearly 70 and "I will Follow You into the Dark " will be played at my memorial service (in the far distant future!). My 11 year - old grandson plays and sings a wicked good version of this song. Saw Death Cab for Cutie in Bremerton, Washington a few years back, and was floored. They're a not only great musicians and vocalists, but their music somehow brings you right into the message. Hope you enjoy them as I do.
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on October 25, 2005
I first heard dcfc when my mate told me to go to their website and listen to them because he thought I'd like them - how right he was! I went out and bought Plans straight away (probably should have started with the old stuff but hey!) And I haven't stopped listening since. The lyrics and the music are beautiful. The opening "Marching Band of Manhattan" is stunning and sets the tone for the rest of the album. The best song would have to be "What Sarah said" it makes me stop what I'm doing and listen whenever I hear it. This album really made me think - about a lot of things. Whatever music you're into, give this a try, its well worth it.
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on November 30, 2005
Let me start off by saying that I am and have been a huge Death Cab for Cutie fan ever since the release of Photo Album. I was very apprehensive when I heard about Death Cab for Cutie switching from the Barsuk label to the much larger Atlantic label. After listening to Plans all the way through the first time, I was disappointed. Where was the dramatic opener like Transatlanticism had (New Year)? Where was the catchy, immediately-stuck-in-your-head song (Sound of Settling)? Where was the perfect closer (Lack of Color)? Upon further listening however, I began to like Plans more than I had before.

-The opener, Marching Bands of Manhattan is one of the better tracks on the album. The church organs are a nice addition and as the song builds up it only gets better. 9/10

-Soul Meets Body, the first single from the album, and the first Death Cab song which has made it onto mainstream radio is a really good song as well. When I first heard it on the Death Cab for Cutie website, I wasn't too impressed. Now though, it is one of my favorite tracks on Plans. 9/10

-Summer Skin. This track doesn't do anything for me. It feels kind of forced by Gibbard and is rather slow. 6/10

-Different Names For the Same Thing. This one sounds like it is being played on an old record player and doesn't go anywhere for the first 2 1/2 minutes. Then, unexpectedly, it picks up the pace and becomes a much better song for the last 2 minutes. 7/10

-I Will Follow You Into the Dark. This song is only Ben Gibbard and an acoustic guitar. I like this one quite a bit. The lyrics are really powerful, "If there's no one beside you when your soul embarks, then I'll follow you into the dark." 8.5/10

-Your Heart is an Empty Room. Another good track. You can really get into the one-of-a-kind voice Gibbard posesses because it is showcased in this one. Kind of sad as well. 8/10

-Someday You Will Be Loved. An inspirational song about a a girl who is not loved by anyone now, but Gibbard assuring her that someday she will be. 7.5/10

-Crooked Teeth. Ahh. I love this one, my favorite on the album. This is one the few songs that really got to me the first time I listened to Plans. Very good bass in this one and funny lyrics, "You're so cute when you're slurring your speech, but they're closing the bar and they want us to leave." That really made me laugh. 10/10

-What Sarah Said. This is the longest song of the album and has a lot piano as well. I think that Death Cab was trying to add a song like the epic "Transatlanticism" from their previous album. It's a pretty good song that builds up and then ends, leaving the listener wanting more. 8/10

-Brothers on a Hotel Bed. I really like this one. This is the first song that Death Cab has used on a cd that wasn't written by Ben Gibbard. Instead, lead guitarist Chris Walla wrote it. To me, Walla does a superb job because the song turns out to be one that sticks in your head. 9.5/10

-Stable Song. Ehh? This is just a shortened version of the song "Stability" which is on the Stability EP. Not really sure why they put this on the cd. Definitely un-needed. 6/10

Overall, Plans is a solid album which has its highs and lows. The more you listen to it, the more it grows on you. The change from Barsuk to Atlantic only resulted in a more smooth and produced sound than in any of their previous albums. Plans is a great album compared to most of the other music being released out there, but for Death Cab standards, just an above average one.

The final verdict: 8/10
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on August 30, 2005
It's pretty hard to one-up one of the best reviewed albums of the past two years, but much to my delight, Death Cab For Cutie has come very, very close.
While "Plans" may not have the overall flow of Transatlanticism, its scope, or is daring leaps of faith, "Plans" is still in my opinion the best released CD so far this year.
Ben Gibbard and co. still deliever what DCFC fans have loved about the West-coast group for years: haunting melodies, heart-felt and at many times brilliant lyrics, music you can easily get lost in. There are a couple tracks that leave something to be desired such as "Summer Skin" and "Someday You Will Be Loved". But then again, Gibbard has written some of the best music of his career on this LP. "Marching Bands of Manhattan" is as great an opener as "New Year" ever was and "What Sarah Said" may be the most powerful song you will ever hear. The best song on the whole disk however may just be "Brothers on a Hotel Bed" which will remind you of why these guys are taking the world by storm. "Stable Song", which is a nice acoustic, mellow redo of "Stability" and is a great way to end the CD.
While "Transatlanticism" was mainly about distance and being apart from what means a lot to you, "Plans" continues that theme and gives us the answer that sometimes, even in spite of our best made plans, things can change, and things can go wrong. DCFC's first release on a major label discusses death and loss like very few bands could ever dream to do.
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on December 9, 2005
I am a longtime Death Cab fan ever since the "We have the Facts" days, and I must say that I absolutely love "Plans." Stylistically, it is their best. For all the people who are disgruntled about the production quality and write it off as too "slick," listen closer, ok? Chris Walla recorded the album, just like any of their other albums. Their new deal with Atlantic just enables them to spend more time crafting the after-product. I think that they have greatly benefitted from this on "Plans." Songs like "Marching Bands of Manhattan" and "Different Names for the Same Thing" are stellar, and I would argue, are some of their best songs to date. Kind of like a continuation of my favorite DCFC record, "The Photo Album." I am in the minority when I say that I disliked "Transatlanticism." I thought that it was fragmented and mediocre at best, thought not without its good moments ("Title and Registration"). "Plans" takes me back to their pre-OC days and gives me a sense of High School-era nostalgia, the kind where I yearned to hear "We Laugh Indoors" and "Amputations" on my local college radio stations. So all I have to say to those purists out there who cannot stand the "slick production" or the fact that they are achieving modest success: get over yourselves and just listen to the music. If you can't do that, the loss is on you.
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