Death Cab for Cutie — The Barsuk Years (2013)

 Death Cab for Cutie — The Barsuk Years (2013)

Death Cab for Cutie •The Barsuk Years
Formed: 1997
Location: Bellingham, Washington, United States
Album release: 2013
Record Label: Barsuk Records/Artist In Residence
Duration:     540:51min.
You Can Play These Songs with Chords (1997):
01. President of What?     4:06
02. Champagne from a Paper Cup     2:35
03. Pictures in an Exhibition     4:03
04. Hindsight     3:48
05. That's Incentive     2:13
06. Amputations     4:03
07. Two Cars     3:31
08. Line of Best Fit     5:49
Ed Brooks  Mastering
Death Cab for Cutie  Primary Artist
Geoff Farina  Composer
Ben Gibbard  Composer, Concept, Design, Drums, Glockenspiel, Guitar, Guitar (Acoustic), Instrumentation, Layout Design, Liner Notes, Noise, Organ, Shaker, Vocals
Nathan Good  Drums, Tambourine
Nick Harmer  Bass, Composer, Keyboards, Liner Notes
Johnny Marr  Composer
Morrissey  Composer
Secret Stars  Composer
Christopher Walla  Bass, Composer, Construction, Drum Machine, Execution, Fuzz Bass, Guitar, Guitar (Electric), Keyboards, Liner Notes, Loop, Mixing, Noise, Organ, Pedals, Photography, Scratching, Tapes, Vocal Harmony, Vocals, Wurlitzer

We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes (2000):
Album release: March 21, 2000
01. Title Track     3:29
02. The Employment Pages     4:04
03. For What Reason     2:52
04. Lowell, Ma     3:29
05. 405     3:37
06. Little Fury Bugs     3:49
07. Company Calls     3:19
08. Company Calls Epilogue     5:16
09. No Joy in Mudville     6:03
10. Scientist Studies     5:56
Death Cab for Cutie  Primary Artist
Ben Gibbard  Composer
Nathan Good  Drums
Nick Harmer  Composer
Tony Lash  Mastering
Michael Schorr  Composer
Christopher Walla  Composer, Engineer, Glockenspiel, Mixing, Percussion, Piano (Electric), Producer, Sampling, Telecaster, Vocals (Background)

Something About Airplanes (1999):
Album release: March 2, 1999
01. Bend to Squares     4:33
02. President of What?     4:01
03. Champagne from a Paper Cup     2:39
04. Your Bruise     4:20
05. Pictures in an Exhibition     3:49
06. Sleep Spent     3:37
07. The Face That Launched 1000 Shits     3:42
08. Amputations     4:55
09. Fake Frowns     4:31
10. Line of Best Fit     7:17
Jay Chilcote  Composer
Death Cab for Cutie  Primary Artist
Ben Gibbard  Composer
Christopher Walla  Composer, Engineer, Producer 
The Death Cab for Cutie Forbidden Love E.P (2000):
01. Photobooth     3:46
02. Technicolor Girls     3:39
03. Song for Kelly Huckaby     3:51
04. 405 (Acoustic)     2:59
05. Company Calls Epilogue (Alternate)     5:22
The Photo Album (2001):
01. Steadier Footing     1:47
02. A Movie Script Ending     4:20
03. We Laugh Indoors     4:58
04. Information Travels Faster     4:03
05. Why You'd Want to Live Here     4:45
06. Blacking Out the Friction     3:27
07. I Was a Kaleidoscope     2:50
08. Styrofoam Plates     5:24
09. Coney Island     2:41
10. Debate Exposes Doubt     4:37
11. Gridlock Caravans (Bonus Track)     1:16
Death Cab for Cutie  Primary Artist
Ben Gibbard  Composer
Nick Harmer  Composer
Jeff Saltzman  Mastering
Michael Schorr  Unknown Contributor Role
Christopher Walla  Art Direction, Composer, Engineer, Mixing, Producer

The Stability E.P.(2002):
01. 20th Century Towers     4:36
02. All Is Full of Love     3:18
03. Stability     12:22 
Transatlanticism (2003):
01. The New Year     4:36
02. Lightness     3:30
03. Title and Registration     3:39
04. Expo '86     4:11 
05. The Sound of Settling     2:13
06. Tiny Vessels     4:22
07. Transatlanticism     7:55
08. Passenger Seat     3:42
09. Death of an Interior Decorator     2:57
10. We Looked Like Giants     5:33
11. A Lack of Color     3:36
Ed Brooks  Mastering
Joel Brown  Assistant
Death Cab for Cutie  Primary Artist
Ben Gibbard  Composer
John Goodmanson  Mixing
Stuart Hallerman  Assistant
Nick Harmer  Composer
Sam Hofstedt  Assistant
Kory Kruckenberg  Assistant, Assistant Engineer
Jason McGerr  Composer, Group Member, Handclapping, Stomping
Sean Nelson  Group Member
Aaron Prellwitz  Assistant
John Roderick  Group Member
Adde Russell  Artwork
Robbie Skrocki  Assistant
Kevin Suggs  Assistant
Troy Tietjen  Assistant
Christopher Walla  Composer, Engineer, Group Member, Mixing, Producer
Phil Wandscher  Group Member
Steve Wiseman  Assistant

Benjamin Gibbard – vocals, guitar, piano, bass, drums (1997–present)
Nick Harmer – bass, keyboards, guitar, backing vocals (1997–present)
Chris Walla – guitar, production, piano, vocals (1997–present)
Jason McGerr – drums (2003–present)
Nathan Good – drums (1997–1999)
Michael Schorr – drums (2000–2003)
 •Limited to 1,500 pieces, The Barsuk Years is basically an early Death Cab for Cutie fan/collector's version of the Holy Grail, offering up all of the influential indie pop group's Barsuk albums (the 1997 cassette-only demo You Can Play These Songs With Chords, Something About Airplanes, We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, The Photo Album, and Transatlanticism) and EPs (The Forbidden Love EP and The Stability EP) on 180-gram vinyl, all of which (besides the already stellar-sounding Transatlanticism) have been remastered by Roger Seibel at Phoenix, Arizona's legendary SAE studios. Numbered, housed in an attractive cloth-bound box, and individually signed by the members of the band, The Barsuk Years exhaustively captures the group's rise from beloved insular indie darlings to mainstream Grammy-nominated rockers.
Band name:
Gibbard took the band name from the title of the song written by Neil Innes and Vivian Stanshall and performed by their group, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, in The Beatles' 1967 film, Magical Mystery Tour. The song's name was in turn taken from an invented pulp fiction crime magazine, devised by Richard Hoggart as part of his 1957 study of working class culture The Uses of Literacy. In a 2011 interview, Gibbard stated "The name was never supposed to be something that someone was going to reference 15 years on. So yeah, I would absolutely go back and give it a more obvious name."
You Can Play These Songs with Chords  (1997) - Label: Elsinor (Els #012); Format: CS / Re-released with extra material on CD through Barsuk Records (Bark #28) on October 22, 2002.
2000 The Forbidden Love EP
Released: October 24, 2000
Label: Barsuk (Bark #15)
Format: CD
2002 The Stability EP
Released: February 19, 2002
Label: Barsuk (Bark #23)
Format: CD
2004 Studio X Sessions EP
Released: July 27, 2004
Label: Barsuk (Bark #39)
Format: Digital download
2005 The John Byrd EP
Released: March 1, 2005
Label: Barsuk (Bark #43)
Format: CD
2009 The Open Door EP
Released: April 14, 2009 (digital pre-release on March 31, 2009)
Label: Atlantic (US #30)
Format: CD, vinyl, digital download

Something About Airplanes (1998)
We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes (2000)
The Photo Album (2001)
Transatlanticism (2003)   Gold (US)
Plans (2005)   #4 (US)   Platinum (US)/Gold (CAN)
Narrow Stairs (2008)   #1 (US, CAN)   Gold (US)
Codes and Keys (2011)   #3 (US, CAN)
Completely releases:
Studio albums 7
EPs 5
Singles 15
Video albums 2
Music videos 9
Other appearances 10
Born: August 11, 1976, Bremerton, Washington 
Instruments: Guitar, vocals, piano, drums, bass
Notable instruments:
G&L ASAT Classic Bluesboy
Fender Telecaster
Fender Coronado
Press contact:
Birth name: Christopher Ryan Walla
Born: November 2, 1975, Bothell, Washington
Instruments: Guitar, Vocals, Piano, Bass
Chris Walla has also founded his own recording studio located within his home in Portland, Oregon named the Alberta Court. Prior to moving to Portland, Walla was the owner/proprietor of Seattle's legendary recording studio, the Hall of Justice, where Death Cab and many NW luminaries (Nirvana, etc.) recorded over the years.
Review by Todd Kristel
This is a pretty good 18-track collection of rarities and unreleased material. It's not recommended to newcomers who want an introduction to the band or casual listeners who want only one or two of their CDs, but Death Cab for Cutie fans should be pleased with the selection. The earliest recordings -- "This Charming Man" (a cover of a Smiths song with some botched phrases such as "under this charming car"), "TV Trays," "New Candidate," and "Tomorrow" -- were done in November 1996. Several other tracks were recorded in May-July 1997; of these songs, "President of What," "Champagne From a Paper Cup," "Pictures in an Exhibition," "Amputations," and "Line of Best Fit" were later re-recorded for Something About Airplanes (the differences between the original and re-recorded versions aren't incredibly interesting, but the songs themselves are good and they comprise only a small part of this collection anyway). "Flustered/Hey Tomcat!" (a showcase for tape manipulation that isn't particualarly interesting) and "State Street Residential" were originally recorded in December 1997 and March 1998 respectively; both were mixed in May 2002 for this album. "Wait," a cover version of a Secret Stars song, and "Prove My Hypothesis" were released on 7" singles in 1999; both were remixed for this album. "Song for Kelly Huckably" was recorded in July 1999 (a new recording was released on the Forbidden Love EP in 2000) and the original version, "Army Corps of Architects" (which was remixed for this album), was the B-side of a Sub Pop singles club 7" in 2000. As you might expect, the overall quality of the songs isn't quite up to the standard of the best Death Cab for Cutie albums, but it comes close enough to entertain fans who aren't die-hard completists.
We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes
Review by Jack Rabid  (Editor rating: ****)
Like the also-great Idaho or Wheat, to file Death Cab for Cutie under the mellow-pop umbrella that shelters tranquil chamber outfits such as Red House Painters, Low, or (post-dance-pop) Talk Talk would do them a gross, miscalculated service. While they're no strangers to the tickling knelling of guitars searching out the extra space found in laggard tempos, that predilection only encompasses a fourth of Death Cab for Cutie's output (like on "Title Track" and "Little Fury Bugs"). Heck, they're not even remotely quiet for half of We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes -- the best and brightest LP of their three fine albums to date. Ben Gibbard has turned into a sublime composer, using melodies sparingly but with splendid tunefulness, as all four players marinate his writing with delicately plucked, picked, and pulled arpeggios, ringing chords, and non-obvious atmosphere building. Verily, the slow, broody stuff is but a change of pace; it's when the volume doubles (if only occasionally crashes), when the band shows potency, that We Have the Facts starts flying, soaring with exigency beyond even the threatening storm clouds from the last flight plan, 1998's Something About Airplanes. "Lowell, MA" and "Company Calls" are perfect examples: drummer Nathan Good actually gets to punish his snare and toms, the other three dig in with him, and the words "indie pop" suddenly sounds fresh and alive, with real aggressive, post-dream pop guitar popscapes. Loud and soft, or most of all both, and plenty of points in between, DCFC write and record finished songs that emote, that do more than merely fill a slot in a form in a preconceived genre. In short, they're superb. And getting greater.
Something About Airplanes
Review by Nitsuh Abebe  (Editor rating: ****)
The fact that Elsinor and Barsuk, two relatively small labels, conspired to co-release Something About Airplanes should give some indication as to its quality. It's a solid, emotive, and frequently amazing indie rock record that foreshadows Death Cab for Cutie's eventual ascent into the mainstream. Sonically, the band falls somewhere on the dreamier and more pop-oriented end of Built to Spill's sound (particularly on Keep It Like a Secret), alongside the Posies' most pensive tracks, or with Delta Haymax -- that is, dynamic, melodic, and somewhat atmospheric Northwestern rock. What's important, however, is that the composition, arrangement, and perfect vocal harmonies of Something About Airplanes are all hugely effective; the band uses light touches of flute, synth, or cello to add the necessary textures to its well-crafted pop songs, and the result has a consistently impressive and thoroughly engaging quality that rivals Built to Spill's Keep It Like a Secret. Which is quite a complement -- but tracks like "Bend to Squares" and "Pictures in an Exhibition" deserve as much adulation as one can offer.

The Photo Album
Album release: October 9, 2001
Review by Jack Rabid  (Editor rating: ***
Released in 2000, We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes delivered on the promise of You Can Play These Songs with Chords and Something About Airplanes. For once, a band's popularity grew commensurate with its maturation. Despite the heightened attention, singer/songwriter/guitarist Ben Gibbard next let loose Death Cab for Cutie's finest moment, "Photobooth," the lead track on the sparkling Forbidden Love EP. New fans worldwide swooned under its beguiling romantic rise 'n' fall and its lingering, bittersweet, wallet-sized artifact. And though it wouldn't have killed them to include "Photobooth" here -- for its spotless greatness and thematic likeness -- The Photo Album's ten tracks are of the EP's heightened caliber. Gibbard's words screen intriguing mini-films of the mind, stoked by corresponding daydreamy music. An exquisite liaison of the British penchant for ringing, knelling, subconscious guitars and direct/grittier American drive, the band is tight, evocative, and inventive. Bassist Nick Harmer and drummer Michael Schorr lock in creative rhythmic bases, while Gibbard and Chris Walla's guitar work gives the band climactic, cinematic coloring shades. And, in the end, it's Gibbard's remarkable abilities as a writer and singer that are on display most. Each word draws you in via his sweet, thoughtful guy voice. The solo 1:47 opener, "Steadier Footing," is merely a starter course, but it feels like an entrée: "And this is the chance I never got/To make a move, but we just talk" is only one measure of the chances/plans/dreams/connections and relationships that have eluded him or fizzled. Reeled in, one is left to look back over one's own smoldering wreckage, of opportunities or attachments lost -- much as "A Movie Script Ending"'s abrupt turn "Passing through unconscious states/When I awoke I was on the highway" somehow segues into the couplet "With your hands on my shoulders/A meaningless movement, a movie script ending." Like "Photobooth," it's a typically sobering, adverse assessment of how unromantic the romanticized can become. That it's a great pop song, arresting in its jerky wobble, is just another point in its, and this LP's, favor. The world needs more superb pop with brains and heart and emotional complexity.

Album release: October 7, 2003
Review by Rob Theakston  (Editor rating: ****½
As musical lunacy goes, things have gotten as crazy as it gets for Death Cab for Cutie since 2002's You Can Play These Songs with Chords compilation. A wildly successful tour with Dismemberment Plan, a collaboration for singer Ben Gibbard with emo-electronic guru Dntel under the Postal Service moniker, and a whole new legion of fans swooning to Gibbard's lyrics as if he were a modern day answer to Kiss Me-era Robert Smith have all amassed considerable hype around Transatlanticism. But the group proves themselves more than equal to the task, answering the call and proving the cynics wrong with their most focused and most mature work in their entire catalog. Transatlanticism wastes absolutely no time and dives in head first with "The New Year," one of the most melodramatic openings to an album since the Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight" from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The mellow, mixed-meter percussion and dense atmosphere of "Lightness" is a brilliant lead into the pop-happy "Expo '86" and "The Sound of Settling" before setting up the climatic and intensely dramatic title track. Unconsciously taking a page from Blur's "Sing," the hypnotic drumming and guitar call and responses through the eight-minute climax of the album are backed with a singalong finale that unquestionably will have every audience on the next tour singing along and holding up their lighters. And while most albums would be left exhausted after such a track, the group keeps things moving, albeit at a much slower pace than compared to the anthems that packed the first half. Gibbard seamlessly makes the transition between songs that full out rock to songs that are comparable to Elliott Smith's finest hour with great ease. But it's Gibbard's poetic lyrics and signature introspection that remain a bench mark for Death Cab; and it's the group's maturity as musicians as well as songwriters that make Transatlanticism such a decadently good listen from start to finish. The band has never sounded more cohesive, the track sequencing is brilliant, and it caps off a triumphant year for not only Gibbard, but a band whose time and greater recognition is finally due.  ••  

Death Cab for Cutie — The Barsuk Years (2013)