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The Cab ride accelerates

Death Cab for Cutie

“Plans” (Atlantic Records)

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IT’S nice when the good guys finally win. For the past four years, the thoughtful, precious and slightly odd cadence of independent rock ‘n’ roll has been steadily growing on the mainstream. It’s not quite been a revolution, the way it was with Nirvana; it’s more like a fungus that has slowly taken over the area once reserved for nu-metal and its itinerant goatees, baseball caps and feckless pleas to break stuff.

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“Plans” (due in stores Tuesday) marks a turning point in contemporary mainstream rock, as it is the first album of its sort (one made by former college/indie rock heroes) to enjoy a highly anticipated release without any past radio airplay to speak of. The irony, of course, is that the Seattle-based band reached such rarefied heights by signing on with a major label, and by virtue of its heavy exposure on the prime-time soap “The O.C.” Both of these things were once unthinkable in the indie-rock world.

The record itself is a sad and touching meditation on death and distance, handled with a light melodic touch. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” and “Someday You Will Be Loved” showcase singer Ben Gibbard’s knack for writing reflective songs in complete sentences. Throughout the record there is the sense that an intelligent mind is going to work on immutable emotions ranging from heartache to grief, finding no answers and little comfort in reason.

By the time the record reaches “What Sara Said,” a painfully stark and vivid story set in a hospital waiting room, it’s clear that the appeal of Death Cab for Cutie is the band’s outright honesty. In a world where everything can seem so planned, targeted, packaged and marketed, how refreshing that kids are embracing something that isn’t. Even if all they stand to break is their hearts.

Mikel Jollett

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.


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