Live: Death Cab For Cutie Expand Their Sound At The Beacon Theater

Death Cab For Cutie feat. Magik*Magik Orchestra w/ Youth Lagoon
Beacon Theater
Friday, April 27

Better than: The 10th-anniversary deluxe edition of Transatlanticism that will no doubt be released—and inspire even more "Is Indie Rock Dead?" thinkpieces—next year.

"One might ask what we're doing here with an eight-string section," Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard calmly stated early on in his band's set at the Beacon on Friday.

Yes, one might. But for those still keeping score, Death Cab touring alongside San Francisco's Magik*Magik Orchestra makes a whole lot of sense. It was Magik*Magik who helped the rockers from Washington state do something different on last year's Codes and Keys, arranging sweeping string parts that brought an eeriness to songs like the album's title track. But it's not the easiest album for a drummer, bassist and two guitarists/pianists to bring to life on a stage.

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Oddsmaking: Is Bon Iver Or Foster The People Alt-But-Not-Too-Alt Enough To Win At This Year's Grammys?

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences introduced the Best Alternative Music Performance category in 1991 in anticipation of punk breaking later that year (and permanently renamed the award in 2000). Over the past two decades, the changing demographics of the nominees have reflected the ever shifting and hotly debated definition of the word "alternative." The Foo Fighters' debut was nominated for in 1996, but without changing their sound much at all they've since migrated to—and dominated—the Best Rock Album category. This year, the award continues to struggle with its identity with a field that's more unpredictable than usual: There's no lock like Beck or The White Stripes present and no big commercial breakthrough for a long-running band like the last two winners, Phoenix and The Black Keys.

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Live: Death Cab For Cutie Possess Brooklyn's Heart

Death Cab for Cutie
Williamsburg Waterfront
Tuesday, August 2

Better than: New York's skyline at dusk.

"Everybody just take a second to turn around and check out how beautiful your city is right now," Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard says shortly into his band's set. "Take a picture, take some video. Now turn back around." From this side of the East River, the sun looks big and orange as it squeezes between Lower Manhattan's skyscrapers. It's the sort of thing that's easy to take for granted when you live here. But it's hard to right now, especially after the Washingtonian singer points out, "This is probably the most beautiful view we've played in front of." As they begin Codes and Keys' "Doors Unlocked and Open"—in which he sings about "seas of concrete" and a "blinding sun," but also California (blah)—concertgoers start turning around to snap pictures of New York's jagged horizon, and they continue to do so throughout the night.

Sometimes an amazing setting is all it takes to transform what could be a generic gig into something special for both an audience and a band. Clearly awed by New York's grandeur, the Seattle group put on an emotionally charged set that captivates even those concertgoers who are distracted by the Manhattan skyline.

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