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(Soundbite of song "I Will Possess Your Heart")

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

OK, so if we can learn anything from the new Death Cab for Cutie single, it's that there's nothing really wrong with a really, really long intro. Well, that may be debatable. That's what we're listening to now. That said, I'm going to cut right to the chase. It's Tuesday. There's new music from Death Cab for Cutie. We've also got Duffy and the Old 97's, and of course, we have someone to walk us through this musical landscape. Josh Freedom du Lac of the Washington Post is here to discuss all said albums. Hey, Josh.

Mr. JOSH FREEDOM DU LAC (Music Critic, Washington Post): How are you?

MARTIN: I'm doing well. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. DU LAC: Glad to be here.

MARTIN: So we're listening right now to a song off the new Death Cab for Cutie album. It's called "Narrow Stairs," and this is the single called "I Will Possess Your Heart." This is a very long intro.

MIKE PESCA, host:

We're getting there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DU LAC: Give them about five more minutes and I think we'll...

PESCA: We're getting there...

MARTIN: I know, seriously, it goes on forever. We'll get to the lyric eventually. This is their sixth studio release. What do you think about this album?

Mr. DU LAC: Well, it's probably the feel-bad album of the month...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DU LAC: I mean, it's typical Death Cab for Cutie stuff in that it's, you know, full of despairing, dramatic, lonely, mopey rock music, you know, perfect songs for this time of the morning. Very sharp narratives and character sketches about very sad souls, I guess you could say. You know, the single that we're talking about, "I Will Possess Your Heart," is sort of interesting in that, you know, they noodle around for nearly five minutes of this instrumental...

MARTIN: It's a long setup. They eventually do get to the lyrics, and we're just going to fast forward and play it.

PESCA: You mean this part isn't on a loop?

Mr. DU LAC: No.

MARTIN: No, no, it's really, it goes on forever. But like I said, we're going to fast forward. Here's the lyric.

(Soundbite of song "I Will Possess Your Heart")

Mr. BEN GIBBARD: (Singing) I wish you could see the potential, The potential of you and me. It's like a book, elegantly bound but In a language that you can't read just yet.

You've got to spend some time, love. You've got to spend some time with me And I know that you'll find love. I will possess your heart...

MARTIN: So a lot of Death Cab songs focus on kind of emotional contents, specific moments in time, really emotive quality to them, but this particular album has been described by others as more "muscular." Is that something you agree with? A little harsher sounding?

Mr. DU LAC: Well, yeah, in terms of the music itself, you know, there's more squalor, you know, less of the kind of pretty, multi-tracked sound that you've had in previous albums, particularly the last one, "Plans," which came out three years ago. This one sounds a little rawer, more dissonant, I guess. You know, going back to that single, though, that we were just listening to, I mean, the interesting thing about that to me is it's actually a great song, once you get past that instrumental introduction.

You know, it's this terrific kind of creepy, stalker anthem in which Ben Gibbard sings about, you know, waiting outside of his beloved's home and, you know, I won't let you let me down so easily. I will possess your heart. I mean, it's actually a pretty fantastic song, but you know, that introduction feels kind of tacked on and almost unnecessary, almost like it's the sound of a band that's trying really, really hard to show, hey, we're evolving. I don't think they need to do that, though.

MARTIN: But don't they get to a point? I mean, they've been around for awhile, they've established themselves. They're very well established in the indie scene. They've moved over to a bigger record label now. Can't they just say, hey, folks we've arrived, and you know what, we want to do a four-minute intro?

Mr. DU LAC: Sure, they could say whatever they want. But as fans, as listeners, we can also say, eh, I don't like it.

PESCA: It doesn't mean Josh is going to like it. Maybe they should've just cut to the chase on the album and then do the long intro live.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DU LAC: Yeah. And apparently it sounds pretty good. I just, you know, I've listened to that song probably three times and, you know, was listening to it here today and just thinking, boy, can't we just fast forward? So I'm glad you did.

MARTIN: We're going to move on now to one of my favorite albums to talk about today, Duffy. The new album is called "Rock Fairy." Before we get into the conversation about this I want to start off - let's listen to the single. It's called "Mercy."

(Soundbite of "Mercy")

DUFFY: (Singing) I love you, but I've got to stay true. My morals got me on my knees. I beg you, please, stop playing games. I don't know what this is, but you got me good just like you knew you would. I don't know what you do but you do it well. I'm under your spell.

You got me begging you for mercy. Why won't you release me? You've got me begging you for mercy. Why won't you release me?

MARTIN: I'm hearing a little Dusty Springfield, a little bit of Aretha, a little bit of Amy Winehouse maybe. What's the word on her? How does she distinguish herself from these powerhouses?

Mr. DU LAC: Well, you know, that - "Mercy" is actually a really great song and let me just catch my breath because I was standing up and dancing in the studio.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: As we all were.

Mr. DU LAC: Yeah. I mean, you know, Duffy is really interesting. She probably will suffer from coming out after Amy Winehouse, because there are a lot of similarities there in terms of her age. They're both from the U.K. You know, they both have these powerhouse, aching voices. They write these shark confessionals mostly about broken relationships, although "Mercy" is about, you know, actually being under somebody's spell and kind of liking it.

But you know, how will she distinguish herself? That sort of remains to be seen. I mean, this album is filled with a lot of songs that kind of sound the same to me. You know, what she does actually she does pretty well, you know, writes these bereft, bruised lyrics about she's been done wrong, how she won't let it happen again, you know, has that great big, torchy voice. You also hear some Shirley Bassey there, and you know, the production is pretty good.

MARTIN: She's got Bernard Butler, right? who's been...

Mr. DU LAC: Yeah.

MARTIN: I read, described as the thinking man's Mark Ronson, who of course...

Mr. DU LAC: Yeah. So, you know, there's sort of a similar wall of sound production style and, you know, the album works. It's pretty short, ten songs, kind of cuts to the chase and, you know, no four-minute, five-minute instrumental introductions...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DU LAC: Death Cab, but you know, ultimately it works. It's a fun album. Even, you know, a fun album for being pretty sad and blue, I guess you should say.

MARTIN: Yeah. Yeah.

PESCA: It's more like Welsh Cab for Cutie.

Mr. DU LAC: Yeah.

MARTIN: Welsh Cab for Cutie. I'm totally digging it. So let's segue now into something a little bit different, the Old 97's. On their website they say, quote, "Their new album, called 'Blame it on Gravity,' the seventh Old 97's record, the band has made its definitive statement." That's a...

PESCA: Took 'em awhile.

MARTIN: That's a bold statement, to say you've made a definitive statement. What - what do you think they're talking about? Have they made a statement and what is it?

Mr. DU LAC: Well, I mean, probably the statement would be, hey, we're great rock 'n' roll songwriters. That's, you know, that would be...

MARTIN: Are they?

Mr. DU LAC: I think they are. I mean, I think Rhett Miller is, you know - these guys were Americana-Alt-Rock darlings kind of from the get go. It's been about, what? Fifteen years since they formed? You know, this album - it's their first in, I guess, four years or so. To me, it sounds sort of like a sampler platter of the kind of styles and sounds they've explored over the years, but at, you know, sort of at the core of the album is the, you know, this great kind of clever and very tuneful songs written mostly by Rhett Miller.

The bass player Murry Hammond also chips in a couple of tunes, but you know, exploring various sounds and, you know, got a little bluegrass, got a little cow-punk-rave-up, you know, galloping two-step. I mean, all sorts of things, but you know, it's sort of an adrenaline rush with these, you know, these great character studies.

MARTIN: Let's listen to a track called "Here's to the Halcyon."

(Soundbite of song "Here's to the Halcyon")

Mr. RHETT MILLER: (Singing) Get me through this, Lord, and I'll do anything you say. Live right, read the good book, I'll settle down and pray. When Gabriel blows his horn, I know things might not go my way. Get me through this, Lord, and I'll do anything you say.

Cut me from this driftwood, Lord, I'll be a better man. Raise me from the deep sea and I'll...

MARTIN: So this is their first album that they've recorded in their hometown, which is Dallas, Texas. Is it a homecoming for them musically in any way?

Mr. DU LAC: Well, I mean, you know, actually, that's one of the few songs that has a little bit of twang to it which, you know, given that the band takes its name from an old country song, "Wreck of the Old 97," you might expect a little more twang. So I don't necessarily think it, you know, sounds of Dallas. I don't know what Dallas would sound like, actually, but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DU LAC: You know, maybe a little twangier than this...

MARTIN: Well, what we think it's going to sound like, yeah.

Mr. DU LAC: And, you know, strangely enough, Rhett Miller occasionally sings with this kind of effected British accent, so, you know, homecoming? I don't know.

MARTIN: You happy with your job this week, Josh? Do you look at the selections, think, you know, there's some good music out there? I'm glad I'm a music critic. I like my work.

Mr. DU LAC: I do. I do. It's a pretty strong week.

PESCA: Josh, our friend here, Rachel, went out on a limb and said that the Duffy album was one of her favorite albums to talk about this week. I'm going to press you. What's your favorite? What's the pick of the week?

Mr. DU LAC: I would say of these three, probably the Duffy album, you know, and then a very close second with Old 97's and, you know, I actually do like the Death Cab for Cutie album. It just, you know, a little bit of the same old and I really can't stand the intro to that first song...

PESCA: One intro to one song knocks it down to the bronze medal.

MARTIN: Ruined it! OK, well, you heard it. That is the word from Josh Freedom du Lac of the Washington Post, music critic. He said he wants to hear - he likes Duffy this week. Guess what? That's my favorite album this week for the selections. So Jacob Danz, director of the BPP, can we please have some more Duffy?

(Soundbite of song "Rockferry")

DUFFY: (Singing) I'd move to...

MARTIN: Josh Freedom Du Lac, music critic of the Washington Post. Hey, Josh, thanks for being here.

Mr. DU LAC: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Take care.

PESCA: Coming up, a documentary about a condition in women called fistula and the stigma it creates and the women who fight against it. The director's in the studio next on the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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