Album: Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs (Atlantic)

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The Independent Culture

Naming your band after a Bonzo Dog song is risky, but Death Cab for Cutie's moniker hasn't hindered their progress, judging by the platinum sales of 2005's Plans. This follow-up is more experimental. There's still a fair complement of standard American indie-rock in songs like "No Sunlight", a catchy piece of stomp-pop that recalls their chums The Shins, and the opener "Bixby Canyon Bridge", which builds from a quiet thrumming of guitars to a vortex of sound.

But elsewhere, there's an African sparkle to the arpeggios of "Your New Twin-Sized Bed", while "Long Division" and "I Will Possess Your Heart" suggest the band have discovered the hypnotic attraction of Neu!'s motorik groove. The latter track is impressive; eight minutes of tremulous guitar and piano throbbing along, with singer Ben Gibbard only entering four minutes in to plead for tolerance. "It's like a book elegantly bound, but in a language you can't read," he claims, perhaps anxious about how the fans might react to the new direction. On this evidence, he needn't worry.

Pick of the album: 'I Will Possess Your Heart', 'Your New Twin-Sized Bed', 'No Sunlight'

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