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23 of 26 found the following review helpful:
Music like a beautiful but distant woman Sep 27, 2002
By Saska Albright
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. Michael Schorr, new to DCFC on this album, proves that he has the chops to pick up where Nathan Good left off.
The audible influences (if not influences, certainly close cousins, anyway) are diverse: from the Beach Boys to the Pet Shop Boys, Suzanne Vega and the Flaming Lips; echoes of guitar bands from the 80s and a good helping of Northwest punk keep the music from being just pretty pop.
9 of 9 found the following review helpful:
Underrated. Some of my favorite Death Cab Apr 09, 2006
By Alex S. Wilhelm
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.
15 of 18 found the following review helpful:
Keep getting better and better Oct 24, 2001
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.
11 of 13 found the following review helpful:
Finally, there is clarity... Mar 28, 2004
By Amy Nguyen
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.
Why you'd want to live here: This is a more upbeat song, a really cool pop/indie rock song. As Gibbard sings about his experience in Los Angeles and innocently asks why anyone would want to live there. My favorite line from this song is "the greyhounds keep coming dumping locusts into the street until the gutters overflow and Los Angeles thinks, "I might explode someday soon." The whole song really perfectly describes LA--even though it is close to my heart, I have to agree wholeheartedly with the description of the city. The line, "is this the city of angels or demons," sums up the song perfectly.
Blacking out the friction: The strength of the lyrics in this song is stunning. "I think that it's brainless to assume that making changes to your window's view will give a new perspective." Someone trying to change their life by just leaving, picking up and going somewhere new has no hope to change anything.
I was a kaleidoscope: my tied for first favorite track of the album. It is bouncy, upbeat--the inflection Ben Gibbard employs when he says Kaleidoscope is tingling. Once again, the tone of the music does not exactly fit the story of a relationship falling apart, but it completely works. It's an awesome track.
Styrofoam plates: the first time I heard the song, I mean really listened to the lyrics, I was awestruck. The song is sung from the perspective of an abandoned, embittered child as he describes his deadbeat dad, from childhood until the father's death. This is the most emotional track on the record, and it is one of the best. The painful truth of the lyrics is both disheartening and electrifying ... The lengthy instrumental in the middle of the song really allows the audience to ponder the significance of this man in turning his son into the angry and lonely kid. As Gibbard warbles the last few lines, you can hear him breaking apart, and that's what makes this song so powerful.
Coney Island: Another favorite track of mine. It is slow, and the music is labored, as it would be on a hot summer's night at Coney Island. It reminds me of something left behind and how the memory lingers on and on. "Everything was closed at Coney Island, and I could not help from smiling. Brooklyn will fill in the beach eventually, everyone will go except me..."
Debate expresses doubt: This is a gorgeous song about relationships, as many of their songs are. But the final stanza of the album really leaves us yearning for more: "finally there is clarity and there is purpose after all, but every night ends
the same as I'm collapsing once more by your side. Finally there is clarity: this tiny life is making sense, and every drop numbs the both of us, but I alone am staggering." The album fades with the tinkling of a piano--and then you realize that the album is over as soon as it has begun.
Great songwriting--lyrical prowess are the mark of this album. Simple put, it is great. I recommend this album and also suggest that anyone who is looking to get into DCFC should also listen to their other albums, starting with Something About Airplanes and going to Transatlanticism. Also, for a different, more electronic sound marked by the same lyrical styling, check out Give Up by the Postal Service, Ben Gibbard's side project.
5 of 5 found the following review helpful:
Highly recommended Nov 06, 2001
As the music industry drifts further into a bastion of cookie-cutter-crap music, I find increasing dependency on such bands as Death Cab. This album signifies why we need and love independent music. As someone who finds herself constantly debating whether I just keep buying the same album over and over or if a lot of new music desperately lacks ingenuity, Death Cab helps me keep the faith. The Photo Album hits harder beats than previous albums, and is truly a great album sure to impress even the most tainted. Highly recommended
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