It's been nearly a year since the boys of Death Cab have released any new material. Last years 'Narrow Stairs' peaked the Billboard Top 100 at number one in May, yet garnered mixed reviews from both fans and critics alike. This new EP works as a sort of a 'companion piece' for Narrow Stairs, and is made up of songs that were recorded during the Narrow Stairs sessions, but just didn't 'fit' with the flow of the album. Not including these songs on the album was a good move, in my opinion. That's not saying that this EP is bad, though. The songs work well together, despite their inconsistency.
The album opens with one of the funnest and, dare I say it, blues inspired songs that Death Cab has ever created. 'Little Bribes' is an all around winner, in my book. Gibbard is at his most clever lyrically on this track. You won't be able to help yourself from smiling as he croons, "And you pretend every slot machine is a robot amputee waving hello, as the people stare into their eyes and feed them little bribes, and then they go...". Walla and company are also in prime form in the song. The guitars compliment the drums exceptionally well. McGerr is at his most straight-forward here, as a percussionist. Nothing flashy or technical, just simple and flowing. Not many drummers can pull of what he does as well as he can. Kudos.
'A Diamond And A Tether' seems to be a lot of peoples least favorite track on the album. I have no clue why. Sure it's the most depressing and self-examining, but isn't that what the fans expect (and want) from Death Cab? I know that's what has kept me coming back for all these years. This may be my current favorite, and the only one of the five tracks that I think would have fit nicely on Narrow Stairs. The next track, 'My Mirror Speaks', is probably the most impressive vocally for Gibbard. He displays some amazing falsetto in the chorus, and a pretty infectious groove throughout the entire song. The drums and guitar are also at their best, here. All that aside though, it sort of feels like a song that won't stick with you for very long, and just feels like an average Death Cab track. Which are still very good, mind you.
'I Was Once A Loyal Lover' is by far the most "pop" song included on the album. It displays some very impressive bass work, courtesy of Mr. Jason Harmer, and some pretty sweet 'fuzzy' guitar distortion from Walla...but it all just comes across as kind of weak and average. Still not a bad song, just not an excellent one. They decided to end this little piece of work with a demo version of 'Talking Bird'. Talking Bird is one of my favorites from Narrow Stairs, so I was pretty excited when I saw a demo would be included. On here, it's just Gibbard and a ukelele. I don't think it's quite as powerful as the full band version, but that may be just me. A lot of people seem to disagree. I still get chills as he sings, "It's all here for you, as long as you choose to stay. It's all her for you, as long as you don't fly away." A great ending line for an album, if you ask me.
In conclusion I would like to say that this is FAR from Death Cabs' best work, but still worth shelling out a few bucks for if you're a hardcore fan. ONLY if you're a hardcore fan, I should say. If you are interested in getting into this wonderful band, I would suggest picking yourself up a copy of 'Transatlaticism' or 'Plans'. I still believe 'Photo Album' is their best work, just not the best to start out with. Enjoy this little gem of an EP, but just hope their next full length CD will further expand on this new sound, and refine it.