A more optimistic offering than we've heard from Death Cab lately, 'Codes and Keys' is still very firmly in the indie rock vein despite the band's claim that would be "a much less guitar-centric album". Yes, there's an increased use of programmed beats, and in many places the Washington State outfit's seventh album places the same emphasis on creating intense atmospheres as predecessor 'Narrow Stairs', yet it still delivers plenty of the meandering and slowly ingratiating melodies at which Death Cab excel.
Though 'Codes and Keys' devotes plenty of its time to experimentation, its finest moments are its most straightforward, the sweet closer 'Stay Young, Go Dancing' a particular treat with its simply strummed guitar and exalted orchestral arrangement. More instantly catchy tunes can be found early on, with the title track's violin accompaniment adding an extra dimension to its catchy bass line and sturdy beat. The pace stays swift for 'Some Boys' with its light-as-air rhythms and distorted vocals, while lead single 'You Are A Tourist' is among the most radio friendly of these eleven tracks.
Yet it's not long before Death Cab's more unconventional side rears its head. Grounded by a bass-heavy pulse and sombre piano chords, 'Unobstructed Views' works as an ambient piece with little by way of melody, yet it has a strange sort of hypnotic effect, particularly when Ben Gibbard's vocals are layered up into synthesised sounding harmonies. It's a strange skill Death Cab seem to have. Where such regular use of repetition might quickly become monotonous from another band, here it is oddly calming, particularly on the entrancing 'St Peter's Cathedral' with its call and response style chorus and clattering electronic beats. And while the like of 'Monday Morning' and 'Portable Television' seem at first to make the album's second half a little samey, they have a tendency to grow on you without you even knowing it.
Ok, so this is by no means Death Cab's finest piece of work, but it certainly maintains their place as one of the most steadfast bands in American indie music.