Death Cab for Cutie didn’t exactly need to reboot after 2018’s Thank You For Today. It was their best record for a decade and found them back on their feet after paddling up Kintsugi creek without a Walla. Still, “Roman Candles”, a pithy voltage of synth-punk from the forthcoming Asphalt Meadows, detonates the path that got them here and opens the calendar on January 1st. In other words, they’re slightly jaded (“It’s been a battle just to wake and greet the day”) but ready for the future.
“I used to feel everything like a flame / But now it’s a struggle just to feel anything,” Ben Gibbard sings midway through. The band leader’s words usually reach across oceans. Here, he seems to admit a crisis of identity. What does Death Cab look like if not the band that feels? But where previous works, such as Transatlanticism, centered on the distance separating lovers, “Roman Candles” attempts to reconcile an internal distance. Its inward examination arrives at an optimistic resolve: “I am learning to let go.”
In recent years, Gibbard and Death Cab have collaborated with Chance the Rapper, released a benefit EP of covers to promote the Georgia senate race, and curated a Yoko Ono tribute album. “Roman Candles” further telegraphs their intentions for the future. They won’t wallow in complacency or nostalgia; rather, they intend to tear through midlife malaise and towards renewed summer years.