For the better part of the last decade, the music of Death Cab for Cutie has been heard in college dorm rooms across the country. The band from Bellingham, Washington, appeals to the young - and the young at heart - with its songs about love and broken hearts.

But this time around, you may notice something different...

(Soundbite of song, "You are a Tourist")

Mr. BEN GIBBARD (Singer-Songwriter, Death Cab for Cutie): (Singing) Fire, grows, high, high, high...

KELLY: ...a departure from their trademark melancholy sound.

Mr. CHRIS WALLA (Guitar/Keyboardist and Producer): We're 13 or 14 years into this, and it just sort of seemed like a good time to try to not make a really guitar-focused record.

KELLY: That's Chris Walla. He plays guitar and keyboards for Death Cab for Cutie. He also produces the band's records. This song we're hearing now is "You Are a Tourist" from their new album, "Codes and Keys." It takes a turn toward the more upbeat.

Mr. GIBBARD: You know, I would be remiss if I had tried to continue writing in a solely melancholic voice, given the fact that now I'm a married man.

KELLY: That's Death Cab for Cutie's front man and songwriter, Ben Gibbard. Since writing and recording the band's previous album, its darkest to date, Gibbard quit drinking. He also moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, and got married to actress-musician Zooey Deschanel.

Here's the song "Monday Morning."

(Soundbite of song, "Monday Morning")

Mr. GIBBARD: (Singing) She may be young but she only likes old things. And modern music, it ain't to her taste. She loves the natural light...

Mr. GIBBARD: The first verse is just a portrait. And I think, obviously, when I speak in first person and I use she or her, people are going to assume that I'm speaking about Zooey. And in this case, I am. But I would hope that as people hear this record, they can put themselves in these songs.

(Soundbite of song, "Underneath the Sycamore")

Mr. GIBBARD: (Singing) Lying in a field of glass, underneath the overpass...

KELLY: Gibbard says back when Death Cab was getting started, he dreamed small. His heroes were the bands selling just a few thousand records, and making just enough money to get by.

Mr. GIBBARD: What we aspired to in 1998, we have wildly surpassed. And I know we all feel incredibly grateful this band is able to have the life that it's had.

KELLY: That's Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie.

Next week, the Grammy-nominated band will release their seventh studio album, "Codes and Keys," and you can hear it now at

(Soundbite of song, "Underneath the Sycamore ")

KELLY: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

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