In the early, crazy, terrifying, bewildering days of the pandemic, one of the few things indie-rock fans could count on were the daily livestreams by Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. As the pandemic shifted (and many others got in on the livestream game), those streams shifted to weekly until they ended entirely, for Gibbard had to get back to making the new Death Cab record that the pandemic had halted. Now Asphalt Meadows is here, and it’s another wonderful release from an increasingly reliably great band.
All the hallmarks that made Seth Cohen fall in love with Death Cab back when are here on Meadows. There’s the great slow emotional explosion of “Roman Candles” (QRO review), followed by the reaching Death Cab needs of the title track. There’s the band’s killer pressing but thoughtful side in “Here to Forever” and “I Miss Strangers”. Of course, Gibbard could make a love song about a “Rand McNally” atlas. And it ends with the sweet hope of “I’ll Never Give Up On You”.
When so much has changed, so much we relied on has become questionable (Gibbard also had a pandemic moment when he advocated against the destabilization of the postal service), it’s just wonderful that Death Cab for Cutie has become such a mainstream in alternative excellence.