It should be clarified that there’s nothing particularly wrong about Codes and Keys. All 11 tracks are tolerable enough. They have a polished and subtle sound that doesn’t offend with overly-wrought electronic elements or unwanted, instrumental experimentation. Unlike their eight-minute long opus “I Will Possess Your Heart” on 2008’s Narrow Stairs, which at least attempted to integrate a heavier, guitar-oriented sound, Death Cab doesn’t bother with such unorthodox behavior on this album. In fact, save for the songs “Doors Unlocked and Open” and “Unobstructed Views,” no track extends beyond the five-minute mark. And even those songs that do break that time constraint proffer the same, mid-tempo mumblings that the band can’t seem or don’t want, to escape.
Instead of experimentation or exploration with different styles, what Codes and Keys gives us is a dull rehashing of old material. The penultimate track, “St. Peter’s Cathedral,” drifts along on a sea of melancholy piano and eccentric mutterings like a carbon copy of the 2003 track, “Transatlanticism.” However unlike their 2003 album of the same name, there are no stand-out hits on Codes and Keys. What remains is only a set of mediocre, cookie-cutter croons which are, like Gibbard’s voice, sweet but hardly substantial.
Jessica Pena is the assistant arts editor.