Death Cab for Cutie‘s new album arrives surrounded by contrasts. It’s their first album since founding guitarist/producer Chris Walla left the band, but he’s actually on the album. The title, Kintsugi, refers to a Japanese art form and philosophy that embraces brokenness as perhaps the most essential part of a new whole. Now we can add to that list the first song to be shared from the album, “Black Sun,” which offers its own set of lyrical dichotomies — yours and mine, questions and answers, hope and despair — and conveys them through unhurried, synth-adorned melancholy that wrings grace out of one of Death Cab’s more cacophonous guitar breakdowns.
Frontman Ben Gibbard has previously said “Black Sun” has said the song is about squaring the past with the present, and it’s tempting to look for clues to specific meanings. “There’s a Dumpster in the driveway / Of all the plans that came undone,” Gibbard sings at one point; Plans, of course, was the band’s 2005 major-label debut and commercial breakthrough. I don’t want to overstate the extent to which the song is a return to form — DCFC’s previous album, 2011′s Codes and Keys, at times came close to being this atmospheric and moving, too. But with their first outside producer, Rich Costey (Franz Ferdinand, Muse), they’ve succeeded in turning their losses into bleak gold. No, this “Black Sun” won’t wash away the rain — far better to wallow, and then revel, in it.
Kintsugi will be available on March 31 via Atlantic.