Album Review: Death Cab for Cutie featuring Magik*Magik Orchestra – Live 2012


Released April 19, 2014.

Published by JB.

All the old songs means somebody got the memo.

Whether it be coincidence or simply a desire to look back, the Live 2012 Record Store Day-only vinyl set from Death Cab For Cutie is an extended glance back to the bubbly, clutsy and charming first half of their catalog.

Back in their heyday a decade ago Death Cab were the indie darlings of pop.  They had the coolest name and were a rocketship riding high on Transatlanticism – one of the most unexplainable, epically great, lightning-in-a-bottle albums from a band that just hasn’t found a direction ever since.  If Transatlanticism was their Sgt. Pepper, then every album since has been Chinese Democracy.  In 2012, they toured for a 2nd time on the heels of their mediocre 2011-release Codes and Keys.  Like the 2 albums preceding it, Codes and Keys featured about three great songs and eight or nine that had very little business being on an album.

The 2011 tour was all rock but this 2012 set, featuring the Magik*Magik Orchestra allowed Gibbard and the Cuties to do very slight reworks of their greatest (which are largely obscure) hits.   Even some of their quirky new songs like ‘Stay Young, Go Dancing’ (dedicated to wife Zooey in 2011, but still being played with glee post-divorce in 2012) feel out of place.  The new tracks are few and far between on this pristine sounding set.  20120417_DCFC_22 Additionally, the Magik Magik Orchestra provides minimal changes (or improvements) to the arrangements.  Where Death Cab For Cutie succeeded early on was playing on front yard lawns with minimalistic recordings that oozed in charm (‘405’).   Pulling in the orchestra is like squirting chocolate syrup on your chocolate ice cream.  Really, what’s the point?   Gibbard’s excellent, gravitating voice has always been the most compelling sound of Death Cab For Cutie, much like Tweedy’s tonal delivery dominates Wilco’s fine songs.   But here Gibbard gets lost at times amidst the forced strings.   It’s the wrong toy to add to the playpen.

You want advice?  Go cuddle up to Transatlanticism (or anything before it) and pray for a new Death Cab greatest hits release that culls the best three tracks from their last three albums.  Until then this release will be nothing more than an above-average pacifier until the next expectedly-dull album comes out with three more gems, 40 minutes of filler and a reminder of simpler, better days a decade ago.   Where you have gone Death Cab?


One thought on “Album Review: Death Cab for Cutie featuring Magik*Magik Orchestra – Live 2012

  1. brianpansky

    For some reason I find most of their albums more interesting than Transatlanticism. Plans, Stairs, Codes, there’s a lot there. I’ve never understood the fascination with Transatlanticism, I have warmed up to it a bit though.

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