Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)

Atlantic 572449-2
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Thank You for Today is Death Cab for Cutie’s ninth studio album, and the first without guitarist Chris Walla, who had announced his departure during the recording of the band’s last album, Kintsugi (2015), to which he contributed guitar, keyboards, and vocals. But even then, for the first time in Death Cab’s recording career, Walla wasn’t in the producer’s chair. Rich Costey produced Kintsugi, and now this new one as well.

Thank You for Today feels like the work of a band entering middle age -- Ben Gibbard, the lead singer and primary songwriter, is 42. He sings of lost love, and of the effects of progress on our collective memories, and of age on rock musicians. One or two songs veer in the direction of this group’s occasional tendency toward preciousness, but even those are presented with emotional sincerity; overall, this album is the work of a band moving confidently forward after a major change in personnel.

Memories, especially of past loves and friendships, are a prominent theme in Thank You for Today. “Only in a dream / Is anything the way it used to be,” Gibbard sings in “I Dreamt We Spoke Again.” Dave Depper’s sampled Wurlitzer gives this tune a slightly dated feel emphasized by Zac Rae’s vintage synth. “Summer Years” continues the theme, and the keyboard washes and Gibbard’s guitar intervals push the song along, with Jason McGerr’s skittering drums keeping the swirling atmospherics well focused.

Thank You for Today

“Gold Rush” samples Yoko Ono’s “Mindtrain” but has little in common with that avant-garde tune. Instead, it expresses sadness at the effects of gentrification in layers of sound and melody. For all the programming and effects that went into each track on Thank You for Today, the songs themselves have a warmly emotional pull. Gibbard’s voice reaches out of the softly building sound effects of “When We Drive” to sing of friendship and time’s passing in a way that humanizes the song.

“You Moved Away” is a bit too obvious, musically and lyrically; nonetheless, most of these songs are smartly arranged and skillfully played. The acoustic and electric guitars in “Autumn Love” mix well with the electronic effects, in a song that’s sweetly moving without being overbearing. The simple keyboard line of “60 & Punk” is doctored to sound like a slightly out-of-tune upright piano, to create an aura of sadness for this tale of an aging rocker. The sampling and other effects remain in the background, underlining the poignancy.

Thank You for Today

Some of the arrangements are reminiscent of 1990s bands, which seems appropriate for an album that contains so many songs about memory and the past. Most of the time, the influences are evocative rather than specific, but the guitars in “Northern Lights” sound very much like Echo and the Bunnymen. But Thank You for Today never sounds dated, and the layered arrangements catch the ear.

Rich Costey’s production and mixes present the instruments on a wide soundstage. Low frequencies come through forcefully without overwhelming other sounds, and little bits of percussion and effects reach from my speakers to grab my attention and pull me into the music. While I find myself missing some of the sprawling ambition of Death Cab for Cutie’s early albums, such as Something about Airplanes (1999) and Transatlanticism (2003), I found Thank You for Today to be sonically pleasing and lyrically satisfying.

. . . Joseph Taylor
josepht@soundstagenetwork.com