Combining sensitive songwriting, memorable melodies, and the rich, wistful vocal tone of its leader Ben Gibbard, Seattle’s Death Cab for Cutie quickly rose from a low-key solo project to become one of the definitive indie bands of the 2000s and 2010s. Then based in the bayside college town of Bellingham, Washington, Gibbard had a minor breakthrough in 1997 with his debut cassette, You Can Play These Songs with Chords, prompting him to put together a band that included the cassette’s producer, Chris Walla.
After marrying grungy rock and bittersweet indie pop for nearly a decade, their 2005 major-label debut, the more polished Plans, propelled Death Cab for Cutie into the Top Five behind the Hot 100 single “Soul Meets Body.” They followed it with another hit song, the ballad “I Will Possess Your Heart” from 2008’s Narrow Stairs, which went all the way to number one on the Billboard 200. (Both records were also nominated for Grammy Awards for Best Alternative Music Album.) Continuing a trend toward more refined production, they returned to the Top Ten with releases such as 2011’s Codes and Keys (another Grammy nominee for Best Alternative Music Album) and 2015’s Kintsugi (a Best Rock Album nominee). Their tenth studio full-length, Asphalt Meadows, saw release in 2022, 25 years after Gibbard’s breakout cassette.
“We recorded Asphalt Meadows (Acoustic) over four days in December 2022 with our friend Andy Park. Our goal was to reinterpret our latest album with the most minimal arrangements possible and present the songs in their rawest, most intimate forms. Some songs were able to take shapes similar to those on the proper album. Others required full re-engineering to snap into focus.”