I spent the bulk of last year on Napster forging an egalitarian taste for indie music while downloading MP3s onto Jason Lang’s computer. We’d roll American Spirit cigarettes while waiting for a new batch of songs to arrive. Without Jason I might have passed a few more classes, but would have never been introduced to bands like Death Cab for Cutie.
The Seattle-based indie pop quartet has released two full albums in the last two years, and may not be esoteric for long. Their recent outing, The Photo Album, is a welcome supplement to previous work, featuring Ben Gibbard’s knack for introspective lyrics. He masterfully rides the line between self-indulgence and soul-bearing release, while his blunt honesty avoids the clichŽ and trite got-dumped formula.
On “Styrofoam Plates,” the dirge-like eulogy for an absent father, Gibbard’s detachment underlines the bitterness as he laments, “It’s no stretch to say you were not quite a father / but a donor of seeds to a poor single mother / that would raise us alone.”
Bridging the gap between post-punk, twee pop and lo-fi, guitarist/organist/producer Christopher Walla’s arrangements prove virtuosity does not come from studio tinkering. Stripped-down instrumentation, in conjunction with athletic appregio guitar, an aversion to effects, and a keen sense of signature pacing, prove an ally for Gibbard’s poetics.
Napster is down and Jason has gone off into the fog of San Francisco life, but with The Photo Album I can indulge in nostalgia, doing what Isla Vistans do best: avoiding reality.
[Patrick Wright is more tagic than you are.]