23 June 2008

"Viva la Vida" versus "Narrow Stairs"

Disclaimer: This writer does not actually know anything about music as an art. Please keep this in mind as you read. For real reviews of the following albums, click on the links below.

Rolling Stone's review of Narrow Stairs

Entertainment Weekly's review of Narrow Stairs

Rolling Stone's review of Viva la Vida

Entertainment Weekly's review of Viva la Vida

Last Tuesday, British rock band Coldplay released their fourth album, Viva la Vida. On May 13, Bellingham, Washington-based band Death Cab for Cutie also released a new album, Narrow Stairs. (Technically, Narrow Stairs is Death Cab's sixth studio album, but it is arguably their fourth mainstream album, and the first two were LPs.)

The music of these two bands has served as the soundtrack for many an angst-filled teenage life. As many twenty-somethings will now tell you, Death Cab and Coldplay played a large role throughout their pitiful high school existences. I am no exception.

Needless to say, I was excited when I found out about the new albums. I downloaded them from iTunes soon after their respective releases.

Narrow Stairs was out first. Death Cab's previous album, Plans, released in 2005, was good. Not as good as Transatlantacism (2003), but good. Enjoyable. There are some fantastic songs on that album. The Photo Album (2001) is definitely Death Cab's best album, but that does not diminish the grandness of Transatlantacism or Plans. Although I have always enjoyed Death Cab, was nervous about the new album from the moment I heard the single "I Will Possess Your Heart" on the radio. Death Cab has become so ungodly popular in the past 4-ish years, and I was worried how fame, fortune, and pressure would affect their newest music. Well, it's still got the classic Death Cab feel, but it's no Photo Album. It's not even as good as Plans. But it's good. I do feel a bit ripped off though, considering one of the tracks on the iTunes version is some guy reading the album credits. Not so pleasant when you're laying in bed listening to the soothing voice of Ben Gibbard and then some guy comes up through the headphones and assaults your ear canals.

The best tracks on the album are "Bixby Canyon Bridge", "Grapevine Fires", and the lovely 1:59 "You Can Do Better Than Me." The lyrics throughout the album are stunning as per usual for Death Cab. Where Coldplay's lyrics seem generic and cliche ("Every door I ever tried was locked.")

I knew right away that Viva la Vida wouldn't disappoint. After being somewhat let down by the 2005 album X&Y, I could not be more thrilled with Coldplay's new album. It is wunderbar! No song on this album is alike in any way, except for the fact that a couple of them have to do with death. Personally I would rather have a sincere, great song about death (as in Viva la Vida) than a crappy, weepy song about love (as in X&Y). Of course, Viva la Vida has its songs about love, but they are not so weepy and whiny. If Chris Martin came and sang them to me, I wouldn't gag!
The sounds on the new album aren't exactly "new" but they are certainly an update of the quintessential Coldplay sound. And it is music to my ears! My favorite track on the album is hands-down "Strawberry Swings."

So, in summary, if you're can only pick one album to buy, get Viva la Vida.